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Gates v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 5, 2013

Vanessa E. GATES, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, et al., Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Louis Fireison, Patricia H. Ley, Louis Fireison & Associates, P.A., Bethesda, MD, for Plaintiff.

Mercedeh Momeni, U.S. Attorney's Office, Denise J. Baker, Office of the Attorney General for District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD W. ROBERTS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Vanessa Gates filed this complaint as the personal representative of the estate of her daughter, Tiffany Gates-Jackson, against the United States of America and the District of Columbia (" the District" ), alleging that the defendants' negligence was responsible for Gates-Jackson's death. The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. Because the complaint states a plausible claim of negligence against the District of Columbia, but because the plaintiff has conceded the United States' motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, the District's motion to dismiss will be denied and the United States' motion to dismiss will be granted.

BACKGROUND

In August 2008, Roderick Ridley was arrested and charged with committing arson at Gates-Jackson's District of Columbia apartment. Gates-Jackson assisted the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) with the prosecution against Ridley. In return, the District provided her with victims' assistance funds and protection from Ridley. Compl. ¶¶ 11-14. Ridley was convicted of arson and incarcerated in the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (" DOC" ). Id. ¶¶ 15-16.

Ridley was eventually transferred from the District of Columbia Jail to a halfway house, from which he absconded in October 2008. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17. The District and the United States Marshals Service notified Gates-Jackson of Ridley's escape. Even though several judges had ordered Ridley to stay away from Gates-Jackson's apartment, the District and Marshals Service helped her relocate into a " safe home" to protect her from further harm. Gates alleges that the District and the Marshals Service were in frequent contact with Gates-Jackson, and provided her with the personal telephone numbers of some of their agents, including the telephone number for Inspector Robert Hoffmaster of the Marshals Service. Id. ¶¶ 18-23.

Gates-Jackson lived in the safe home for approximately one month, but was moved back into her apartment in November 2008. Compl. ¶ 25. On November 21, 2008, Gates-Jackson telephoned 911 to request emergency assistance because she saw Ridley near her apartment. Id. ¶ 26. An MPD officer spoke with her but did not see Ridley. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. She saw Ridley later and called Inspector Hoffmaster. Id. ¶ 29. The Inspector continued his telephone call with Gates-Jackson while he traveled to her apartment. After Inspector Hoffmaster arrived at Gates-Jackson's

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apartment and was parked outside, Gates-Jackson told Hoffmaster that she needed immediate assistance because Ridley was kicking down her apartment door. Hoffmaster waited outside Gates-Jackson's apartment for MPD backup. Over the phone, Hoffmaster heard Ridley kick down Gates-Jackson's door and physically attack her. Gates-Jackson died from Ridley's beating. Id. ¶¶ 31-36.

Gates filed this complaint in August 2011, alleging one count of negligence against both defendants (Count I). Compl. ¶¶ 51-55. Gates' complaint asserts that the District departed from the applicable standards of care in numerous ways, including by failing to conduct an accurate DOC security classification of Ridley and to prevent his escape, and by failing to provide protection to Gates-Jackson and to place a " lookout" for Ridley. Id. ¶¶ 40-41, 44-45. The complaint alleges that the Marshals Service departed from the applicable standards of care by failing to provide protection for ...


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