Argued April 29, 2014.
Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAR-7679-09). (Hon. Judith Bartnoff, Trial Judge).
Dale A. Cooter for appellant.
John M. Shoreman for appellee.
Before GLICKMAN and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.
Nebeker, Senior Judge:
Appellant, Paul Bloom, challenges the jury's verdict rejecting his nuisance claim and awarding appellee, Robert Beam, special damages under his slander of title counterclaim arising from Bloom's filing of a memorandum of lis pendens. Bloom claims that Beam failed to establish the elements required for slander of title, and that the court erred by finding the lis pendens was not absolutely privileged, by awarding sanctions pursuant to D.C. Code § 42-1207 (2001), and by failing to submit the issue of punitive damages to the jury. For the reasons stated below, we affirm in part and remand with instructions to vacate the slander of title verdict.
Bloom lived in a condominium, Unit #9, directly below condominium unit #13 owned by Beam. On October 15, 2009, Bloom filed a complaint alleging that Beam's installation of a new floor in his unit created a noise nuisance that interfered with the use and enjoyment of his property directly below (Count I). He also claimed an equitable interest in Beam's property on the basis that the alleged nuisance established a constructive trust for him to access the property and repair the defective flooring installation (Count II). On October 23, 2009, based on the assertion of the equitable interest, Bloom recorded a memorandum of lis pendens, which stated that the " action affects title and interest" in Beam's property and that he was seeking " to abate nuisance at the [p]roperty, plus $100,000 in damages, costs and attorney fees, and to obtain an [o]rder imposing a constructive trust on the [p]roperty." On April 29, 2010, Bloom filed an amended lis pendens, changing the relief he sought to a " constructive easement" rather than a " constructive trust."
The lis pendens was filed when Bloom learned about the pending sale of Beam's condominium. As a result of the lis pendens the potential buyer was unable to close on the property and despite Beam's attempts, the property did not sell the entire period that the lis pendens was in effect. In response, Beam filed a counterclaim for slander of title arguing that a claim of constructive trust could not affect title to his property. Beam also filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the claim for easement, cancel the lis pendens, and impose sanctions plus an award of punitive damages. On December 1, 2010, the court dismissed Bloom's claim for a constructive easement and ruled that it could not stand as the legal basis for recording a lis pendens. The lis pendens was withdrawn prior to the trial, based on an agreement between the parties through mediation.
The case was tried before a jury on April 11, 2011. The jury rejected Bloom's nuisance claim and found in favor of Beam, awarding him $99,738 in special damages for maintenance expenses of the property during the period when he was unable to sell it because of the li ...