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Tate v. District of Columbia

February 27, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document No. 71


Granting the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment


In this civil action brought pro se, the plaintiff sues the District of Columbia for alleged constitutional violations and common law torts resulting from the impoundment and sale of her car. The District of Columbia moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Dkt. No. 71]. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record, the court will grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.


The plaintiff owned a 1998 Volkswagen Beetle, which she registered with the District's Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") on August 3, 1998. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A ("Claytor Decl.")*fn1 ¶ 5. The plaintiff was issued a $100 parking ticket on January 10, 2002, and a $50 ticket for failing to properly display her front tag on January 29, 2002. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Each fine doubled when the plaintiff failed to respond to the respective notices of infraction. Id. On March 12, 2002, based on at least two unpaid parking tickets, the Department of Public Works ("DPW") placed a boot on the plaintiff's car. Id. ¶ 8. On March 14, 2002, the plaintiff appeared before a hearing examiner, who found her liable for the $50 ticket. Id. ¶ 9. On March 15, 2002, the plaintiff again appeared before a hearing examiner, who found her liable for the $100 parking ticket but waived the penalty based on the plaintiff's "credible" testimony that she was unaware of the ticket. Id. ¶ 10. The hearing examiner upheld the placing of the boot on the plaintiff's car based on DMV's records showing that the plaintiff had accumulated five unpaid parking tickets. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10.

On March 26, 2002, DPW towed the plaintiff's car to its Addison Road Impound Lot; on April 9, 2002, DPW towed the car to its Abandoned and Junk Vehicle Division's Blue Plains Impound Lot. Id. ¶ 11. On April 19, 2002, the plaintiff visited the Blue Plains lot and removed a suitcase from her car. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 3 ("Jones Decl.")*fn2 ¶ 9 & Ex. D. On May 29, 2002, the plaintiff appeared before a hearing examiner for a ticket purportedly issued on November 19, 2001, but the hearing examiner dismissed the ticket "as a warning" because it had not been timely recorded by DMV. Claytor Decl. ¶ 12. The examiner nonetheless upheld the fees for the boot, tow and storage based on the plaintiff's "two delinquent tickets remaining." Id. & Ex. J. On June 4, 2002, the District sold the plaintiff's car and personal effects therein at a public auction for $4,000. Jones Decl. ¶ 11 & Ex. E.

The plaintiff claims that the District conducted an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment, denied her due process and equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fifth Amendment and took her property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment. She also accuses the defendant under the common law of conversion, promissory estoppel, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment and intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress. Am. Compl. [Dkt. No. 43].


A. Legal Standard for a Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party must establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position, id. at 252, and may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993). "The object of [Rule 56(e)] is not to replace conclusory allegations of the complaint or answer with conclusory allegations of an affidavit," Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990), but to identify a genuine issue of material fact. The nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Greene, 164 F.3d at 675. If the nonmoving party's evidence "is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted). "The removal of a factual question from the jury is most likely when a plaintiff's claim is supported solely by the plaintiff's own self-serving testimony, unsupported by corroborating evidence, and undermined [] by other credible evidence[.]" Johnson v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 883 F.2d 125, 128 (D.C. Cir. 1989) (citations omitted).

To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. By pointing to the absence of evidence ...

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