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Little v. Commercial Audio Assocs., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 27, 2015


Page 59

For WILLIAM LITTLE, CATHI LITTLE, Plaintiffs: Stephen David Raber, LEAD ATTORNEY, Thomas L. Harris, WILLIAMS & CONNOLLY LLP, Washington, DC.

For COMMERCIAL AUDIO ASSOCIATES, INC., doing business as INTEGRATED MEDIA SYSTEMS, Defendant: James N. Markels, LEAD ATTORNEY, JACKSON & CAMPBELL, P.C., Washington, DC; Christopher Allan Glaser, Jackson & Campbell, Washington, DC.

Page 60


JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs William and Cathi Little hired Defendant Commercial Audio Associates, Inc. to design and install a top-of-the-line electronics system in their Washington home. To that end, the parties signed a contract in 2005, in which the Littles agreed to pay Commercial Audio over $100,000 for the elaborate system that would include audio, visual, lighting, and motorized-drapery equipment. Over the next several years, Commercial Audio ordered some of the equipment and installed it in the Littles' residence, and Plaintiffs, in turn, made several payments to Defendant for its work on the project. The parties' relationship, however, eventually soured. Disputes arose over both money and alleged defects in the installed equipment; the project, in fact, still remains unfinished a decade later. Fed up with what they believe to be a sloppy and incomplete job by Defendant, Plaintiffs filed this action. They claim that Commercial Audio breached the contract, was unjustly enriched, and, as an unlicensed home-improvement contractor, is liable for the return of any advance payment.

Defendant now moves for partial summary judgment, arguing that the applicable statute of limitations restricts recovery on certain counts to payments totaling $14,736.20. As Plaintiffs concede the amount paid to Defendant within the relevant time period, the Court will grant the Motion as to two of the counts, but deny it in part as to another, which is not so limited temporally.

I. Background

Many of the underlying facts here are not in dispute. Where they are, the Court must view them in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the non-moving party. On March 23, 2005, the Littles retained Commercial Audio to design and install equipment relating to a home-electronics system. See Opp., Exh. A (Statement of Genuine Issues Necessary to be Litigated) (SGI), ¶ 1. The original amount of the contract was $119,105.44, but its scope was expanded over time through various change orders. See id., ¶ ¶ 2-3. Shortly after the contract was executed, Defendant ordered some of the equipment requested by Plaintiffs and began design and installation work in their home. See id., ¶ 4. By March 2009, Defendant had ordered, received, and installed a significant amount of equipment for the Littles. See id., ¶ 5.

But the project did not go as Plaintiffs had hoped. They allege that Defendant did not finish the work it contracted to perform, and that the systems and equipment Commercial Audio did install failed to function properly. See Complaint, ¶ 12. Defendant denies these allegations. See Answer, ¶ 12. The bad blood between the parties extends beyond the quality of work. Over the course of Defendant's time on the project, a dispute arose as to payment of monies claimed to be owed, see SGI, ¶ 6, although most of these questioned sums are not relevant to the instant Motion. The only pertinent fact is that Plaintiffs, through separate installments,

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paid Defendant a total of $14,736.20 within the three years concluding November 19, 2014. See id., ¶ ¶ 7-9; Opp., Exh. B (Declaration of J. William Little), ¶ 10; Mot., Exh. A (Declaration of Tom Wells), ¶ 15. It is also relevant that Defendant acknowledges that it is not a licensed home-improvement contractor in the District of Columbia. See Answer, ¶ 1.

Plaintiffs filed this action on November 19, 2014, alleging four counts: (I) Breach of Contract, for failing to complete the required work and for performing defective work; (II) Violation of D.C. Municipal Regulation, title 16, ยง 800.1, which prohibits unlicensed home-improvement contractors from requiring or accepting payments in advance of full completion of all work; (III) Violation of D.C.'s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), which prohibits any person from violating any provision of title 16 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations; and (IV) Unjust Enrichment, for retaining benefits from defective ...

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