United States District Court, District of Columbia
JOHN B. LESESNE, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff John Lesesne alleges that he suffered physical injuries and emotional distress due to negligent treatment by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) following his arrest and subsequent hospitalization for a gunshot wound. Defendant District of Columbia moves for summary judgment on the two of Lesesne’s claims that survived the District’s previous motion to dismiss-negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Because expert testimony is required to establish each of these claims and Lesesne has not presented such testimony, and because he has not made the required showing for negligent infliction of emotional distress, the Court will grant the District of Columbia’s motion.
The factual allegations and procedural background of this dispute were summarized in the Court’s opinion on Defendants’ motion to dismiss:
Lesesne was shot in the abdomen by his brother, a D.C. police officer, who, according to a police report, Lesesne had attacked with a knife. Defs.’ Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 1 at 2. He was arrested and taken to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery. During his ensuing hospital stay, Lesesne was in the custody of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections [“DOC”]. In his amended complaint, Lesesne allege[d] that DOC personnel continuously handcuffed him to his bed and ignored his attending physicians’ requests that he be allowed to receive physical and occupational therapy, causing long-term injury. Id. ¶¶ 15–18. Later, when the hospital discharged him, DOC officers allegedly made Lesesne walk to a transport vehicle while shackled and then dropped him, causing a pulmonary embolism. Id. ¶¶ 20–22. After a second trip to a hospital and a return to the D.C. Jail, Lesense claims he contracted a staph infection because DOC denied him adequate medical treatment. Id. ¶¶ 26–28.
Lesesne brought suit in this Court against the DOC, the District of Columbia and three individuals: an unnamed DOC officer that oversaw his detention; Captain David Holmes, a DOC employee; and Henry R. Lesansky, a DOC health services administrator. His initial complaint listed sixteen claims, including for violations of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Compl. ¶¶ 27–42. Judge Wilkins, who was previously assigned to this case, granted the District’s motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. 104–134, 110 Stat. 1321, and for failure to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Order, Dkt. 32 (Sept. 30 2011). The D.C. Circuit reversed as to Lesesne’s federal claims. Mandate, Dkt. 35 (June 4, 2014). After remand, Lesesne filed an amended complaint alleging a violation of the Eight Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Defendants move[d] to dismiss, or alternatively for summary judgment, as to Lesesne’s constitutional claims against the District of Columbia and Dr. Lesansky, and his claims for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants.
Lesesne v. Doe, 65 F.Supp. 3d 1, 3–4 (D.D.C. 2014). The Court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss as to the “constitutional claims against the District of Columbia, all claims against the DOC, all claims against individual defendants in their official capacities, and all claims against Dr. Lesansky in any capacity, ” id. at 8, but denied the motion as to Lesesne’s negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”) claims against the District of Columbia.
The District now moves for summary judgment on those two claims, arguing that the claims fail because Lesesne has not proffered expert testimony in support of his negligence claim and because he has not established negligence or fear as required for his NIED claim. Because expert testimony is required to establish both claims and Lesesne has not proffered such testimony, and because Lesesne has not demonstrated that there was a special relationship between him and the District of Columbia or that the zone of danger rule applies with respect to his negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, the Court will grant the District of Columbia’s motion for summary judgment.
II. Standard of Review
Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). At the summary judgment stage, the court draws all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party’s favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. But the nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements and instead must demonstrate facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in her favor. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999). “The moving party is ‘entitled to a judgment as a matter of law’ [where] the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250).
Lesesne alleges that the District of Columbia owed him a special duty of care while he was in the DOC’s custody. According to Lesesne, the District breached its duty by “failing to provide or allow medical rehabilitation services [to be provided to Lesesne] as requested by [his] attending physician(s) while [he] was in their custody.” Am. Compl. ¶ 41. And the breach of that duty, Lesesne contends, proximately caused his current physical limitations and disability, which he describes as being recognized by the Social Security Administration. The District responds that Lesesne’s negligence claim must fail because its success hinges on testimony by an expert as to the standard of care for detainment, the standard of care for rehabilitation, and medical causation, which Lesesne has not presented.
Under District of Columbia law, a “plaintiff in a negligence action bears the burden of proof on three issues: ‘the applicable standard of care, a deviation from that standard by the defendant, and a causal relationship between that deviation and the plaintiff’s injury.’” Toy v. District of Columbia, 549 A.2d 1, 6 (D.C. 1988) (quoting Meek v. Shepard, 484 A.2d 579, 581 (D.C. 1984)). Expert testimony is not required if the “alleged negligent act is ‘within the realm of common knowledge and everyday experience.’” Id. (quoting District of Columbia v. White, 442 A.2d 159, 164 (D.C. 1982)). However, “a plaintiff is required to put on expert testimony where the subject presented is ‘so ...