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Stone v. Landis Constr. Co., Inc.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

July 23, 2015

ALFRED L. STONE, APPELLANT,
v.
LANDIS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., et al., APPELLEES

Argued June 23, 2015

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CAB-1459-14). (Hon. Robert Okun, Trial Judge).

Alfred L. Stone, Pro se.

Lily A. Graves, with whom Albert Wilson, Jr., was on the brief, for appellee Daniel Cavell.

Joel P. Bennett filed a brief for appellees Landis Construction, Ethan Landis, and Nannette Frost.

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

OPINION

Page 1288

Steadman, Senior Judge

Responding to an advertisement seeking to hire a master plumber, appellant Alfred L. Stone interviewed for a position with Landis Construction Company, Inc. (" Landis" ), and was turned down. During the course of subsequent litigation, in which Stone unsuccessfully pursued race and age discrimination claims,[1] Stone learned tat Landis had subsequently hired an unlicensed white plumber and had allegedly provided plumbing services for a number of years without proper licensing. He then filed suit against Landis, (as well as its CEO and two employees), alleging violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (" CPPA" ), D.C. Code § § 28-3901 to -3913 (2012 & 2015 Supp.).[2] Proceeding pro se both below and on appeal, he now appeals the trial court's dismissal of his case for lack of standing under the CPPA.[3] Although we find that Stone has standing,

Page 1289

we conclude that he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and thus affirm.

" Standing is a threshold jurisdictional question which must be addressed prior to and independent of the merits of a party's claims." Grayson v. AT& T Corp., 15 A.3d 219, 229 (D.C. 2011). " [A] lawsuit under the CPPA does not relieve a plaintiff of the requirement to show a concrete injury-in-fact to himself." Id. at 244. As we understand Stone's argument, he asserts injury resulting from his job rejection and Landis's use of unlicensed plumbers, both of which adversely affected his employment situation.[4] When a plaintiff alleges injury to statutorily-conferred rights, we do not look ahead to the merits of whether the alleged statutory right actually exists, but only inquire whether the plaintiff has alleged an injury potentially covered by the statute at issue. Id. at 231. Because Stone has alleged that his loss of potential employment constitutes an injury-in-fact under the CPPA, we conclude, pursuant to Grayson, that Stone has standing to assert his claim.[5]

However, " dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate where the complaint fails to allege the elements of a legally viable claim." Chamberlain v. Am. Honda Fin. Corp., 931 A.2d 1018, 1023 (D.C. 2007). Although Stone has standing to assert his interpretation of the CPPA, the existence of the statutory rights he seeks to vindicate is a distinct question. Grayson, supra, 15 A.3d at 252. We thus consider whether the legislature intended by its statutory language to include the employment relationship within the protection of the CPPA.[6]

" [T]he CPPA was designed to police trade practices arising only out of consumer-merchant relationships, and does not apply to commercial dealings outside the consumer sphere." Ford v. ChartOne, Inc., 908 A.2d 72, 81 (D.C. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). When used as a ...


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