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Wetzel v. Capital City Real Estate, LLC

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 15, 2013

Adam Lee Wetzel, et al., Appellants,
v.
Capital City Real Estate, LLC, Appellee.

Argued March 7, 2013

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia CAB-6131-11 Hon. John Mott, Trial Judge.

Ian Stumpf for appellants.

Jason A. Pardo, with whom Russell S. Drazin was on the brief, for appellee.

Before Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Ruiz, Senior Judge.

RUIZ, SENIOR JUDGE

On July 29, 2011, appellants, Adam Lee Wetzel and Jonathan Paul Rushbrook, filed a complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against appellee, Capital City Real Estate LLC, for fraud, violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Act (CPA), violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), breach of contract, breach of express warranty, and strict liability. After filing an answer, appellee moved for judgment on the pleadings and to compel arbitration. At a hearing on December 8, 2011, the trial court first granted appellee's motion to stay the litigation so the parties could pursue arbitration, but subsequently granted appellee's renewed oral motion to dismiss, without prejudice. In December 2011, appellants Wetzel and Rushbrook filed separate motions for reconsideration, both of which were denied on July 20, 2012, in a written order. This appeal followed.

We hold that the trial court erred in granting appellee's motion to dismiss appellants' claims of fraud, violations of the CPPA, and strict liability, but that the trial court correctly dismissed appellants' claims for violations of the CPA, breach of contract, and breach of express warranty. Thus, we affirm in part, and remand the remaining claims to the trial court for further proceedings.

I. The Complaint

The complaint alleged the following facts about the parties' relationship and agreement; we will refer to other allegations in the complaint in the context of discussing specific counts. On February 10, 2010, appellant Wetzel executed a Condominium Unit Purchase Agreement for a property located at 57 Bryant Street N.W. (Unit #1), with Bryant Street LLC. (Complaint ¶ 17) Appellants learned about the property on the website of appellee, which included marketing documents and photographs of the property, and through a Public Offering Statement concerning the condominium unit. (Complaint ¶¶ 10, 11, 13) The Purchase Agreement and Public Offering Statement were attached to the complaint. (Complaint ¶¶ 16, 17) In addition to advertising the property, appellee, a real estate developer, was actively involved in its renovation. (Complaint ¶¶ 8, 26) At the time of purchase, neither appellant had seen the property in person; appellant Wetzel relied on the photographs on appellee's website, as well as representations made in the Public Offering Statement and Condominium Unit Purchase Agreement.[1] (Complaint ¶¶ 11, 13, 16) In May and August 2010, the property received amounts of rainfall, much of which entered the unit through the walls and a window, destroying the first-floor area. (Complaint ¶¶ 3, 19, 20, 21) The flooding caused extensive water damage and appellants spent $14, 732.42 on mold clean-up. (Complaint ¶¶ 27, 28) Appellant Rushbrook currently lives in the condominium unit. (Complaint ¶¶ 7, 28)

II. Analysis

The standard of review of an order granting a motion to dismiss is well settled:

We review an order granting a motion to dismiss de novo. Chamberlain v. Am. Honda Fin. Corp., 931 A.2d 1018, 1022 (D.C. 2007). In so doing, we apply the same standard the trial court was required to apply, accepting the allegations in the complaint as true and viewing all facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs. Murray v. Wells Fargo Home Mort., 953 A.2d 308, 316 (D.C. 2008). "Any uncertainties or ambiguities" in the complaint "must be ...

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