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Parham v. CIH Properties, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Columbia

December 9, 2015

CIH PROPERTIES, INC. et al., Defendants

          Evelyn Parham, Plaintiff, Pro se, Washington, DC USA.

         For Cih Properties, Inc., Dupont Park Joint Venture, Defendants: Margaret Fonshell Ward, LEAD ATTORNEY, WARD & HERZOG, LLC, Baltimore, MD.


         RICHARD J. LEON, J.

         Plaintiff Evelyn Parham (" plaintiff ') brings this suit against CIH Properties, Inc. and Dupont Park Apartments Joint Venture (together " defendants" ), seeking damages based on allegations that her car was towed and never returned to her in violation of various federal and local laws. See generally Compl. [Dkt. # 1-1]. Before this Court is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. #23] (" Defs.' Mot." ). Upon consideration of the parties' pleadings, relevant law, and the entire record in this case, defendants' motion is GRANTED.


         For over thirty years, plaintiff has resided with her mother in an apartment at Banneker Place, an apartment complex owned and operated by defendants. Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. 1, 15 [Dkt. #24] (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ); Defs.' Mot. 1. This case arises out of an incident on or before September 30, 2011 when plaintiff's car, a 1987 Mercedes bearing a D.C. handicap tag, was towed from the apartment complex parking lot. Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ ¶ 3, 5.

         When plaintiff discovered that her car had been towed, she inquired with the rental office as to its location and was informed by Paula Jones, an employee of defendants, that the car had been removed by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ). Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 6. After receiving this information, plaintiff went to the police station to locate her car, but police records showed that MPD had not, in fact, taken possession of her car. Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 7. Returning to the rental office, plaintiff learned from a different staff member, Carolyn Gill, what had actually transpired-the rental office had called a towing company to remove several cars from the apartment complex parking lot. Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 8. Indeed, on September 29, 2011, Ms. Gill authorized a company called " Big Es Towing" to tow cars that had been ticketed for " dead tags" six days prior and to take them to the junkyard " to be crushed for scrap metal." See Defs.' Mot. Ex. 2 [Dkt. #23-2]. Citing a " dead tag" ticket issued for a Mercedes on September 23, 2011, defendants believe that one of the cars towed by Big Es Towing may have been plaintiff's car. Defs.' Mot. 2 & Ex. 1 [Dkt. #23-1]. Plaintiff, however, contends that her tags were up-to-date and that the tag number recorded on the ticket is inconsistent with the paper tag on her car at the time. Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 16. Although the rental office staff provided plaintiff with the name and telephone number of the man who they believe towed her car, plaintiff has been unable to reach anyone at that number and does not know the location of the junkyard. Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 10. Not surprisingly, plaintiff's car was never returned to her. Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 11.

         Just over three years after these events unfolded, plaintiff brought this action in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia seeking to recover the value of her car, treble damages pursuant to the D.C Consumer Protection Act, and punitive damages. See Compl. at 5. Defendants removed the action to this Court, Notice of Removal [Dkt. #1], and now move for summary judgment, see Defs.' Mot.


         Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the record demonstrate 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). The moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact to be decided with respect to any essential element of the nonmovant's claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmovant must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See id. at 323-24. In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, giving it the benefit of all justifiable inferences derived from the evidence in the record. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The nonmovant's opposition, however, may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, but must be supported by affidavits or other competent evidence. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. Thus, by pointing to the absence of evidence sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the nonmovant's case, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id. at 325.


         Defendants move for summary judgment arguing that the record does not contain evidence sufficient to establish the essential elements of plaintiff's claims. See generally Defs.' Mot. I agree.

         A. Breach of Contract

         Plaintiff's first cause of action is for breach of contract. See Compl. ¶ ¶ 24-25. She supports her claim, however, not with affidavits or competent evidence, but mere allegations that because she was a life-long tenant of Banneker Place, defendants " breached the contract" when they towed her car " out of [the] private parking lot without justifiable reason." Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 15. Such arguments are too slender a reed upon which to base a property claim of this genre. As defendants point out, plaintiff has utterly failed to provide any competent evidence that a contract existed between defendants and herself. See Defs.' Mot. 2. Indeed, the only potentially relevant contract now before this Court is a 1972 lease agreement signed by Mr. Franklin E. Parham, which explicitly states that parking is not covered by the agreement: " Lesee agrees that parking accommodations are not included in the rental, nor are parking accommodations to be ...

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