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Aguilar v. RP MRP Washington Harbour, LLC

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 4, 2014

JOSE A. AGUILAR, ET AL., APPELLANTS,
v.
RP MRP WASHINGTON HARBOUR, LLC, ET AL., APPELLEES

Argued February 18, 2014

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-4698-11). (Hon. Erik P. Christian, Trial Judge).

Gary E. Mason, with whom Nicholas A. Migliaccio and Jason S. Rathod were on the brief, for appellants.

Christopher R. Costabile for appellees.

Before BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judge, and BELSON and STEADMAN, Senior Judges.

OPINION

Page 980

Blackburne-Rigsby, Associate Judge

This case raises a matter of first impression: whether the District of Columbia will follow the majority of jurisdictions by adopting the " economic loss doctrine," which prohibits claims of negligence where a claimant seeks to recover purely economic losses sustained as a result of an interruption in commerce caused by a third party. We answer that question in the affirmative.

I. Factual Background

On June 15, 2011, appellants[1] filed a negligence claim in Superior Court against appellees RP MRP Washington Harbour, LLC and RP MRP Real Estate Services Group, LLC, seeking to recover lost wages that resulted from the closure of their workplaces due to a flood at the Washington Harbour retail complex, which is owned and managed by appellees. Appellants were cooks, servers, bartenders, receptionists, hairstylists, and other employees of various establishments at Washington Harbour, located on the Georgetown Waterfront in Washington, D.C. Washington Harbour is adjacent to the Potomac River and was built in 1986 with unique disappearing flood walls designed to protect the property against floods as high as seventeen feet. RP MRP Washington Harbour, LLC purchased the property in June 2010, and RP MRP Real Estate Services Group, LLC has managed the property since that time. According to appellants, appellees have sole control over the operation of the property's flood walls.

On April 18, 2011, the Potomac River surged, and ten to twelve feet of water flooded the ground-level businesses, basement, and parking lot at Washington Harbour.

Page 981

Appellants allege that at the time of the flood, the flood walls were only partially raised or not raised at all, and that it was not until hours after the flood that the flood walls were fully raised. As a result of the flood, appellants' employers were forced to close, most of them temporarily -- in some cases days, in other cases for several weeks -- and, in at least one case, permanently. These closures left appellants without a source of income for some time. Appellants allege that they suffered lost income in amounts ranging from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

Their complaint claimed that appellees owed them a duty of care to ensure the safe operation of Washington Harbour, which included raising the flood walls when notified of an impending flood, and that by failing to do so before the April 2011 flood, appellees breached that duty. In support of this claim, appellants allege that the flood walls have been raised sixty or seventy times since Washington Harbour was built in 1986, and that never in Washington Harbour's history has such a failure to raise the flood walls occurred. Appellants also included a statement by District ...


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