Submitted April 22, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia Civil
Division(CAR-2856-15) (Hon. John M. Campbell, Trial Judge)
S. Spiegel for appellant.
N. Markels for appellee.
BEFORE: Thompson and Easterly, Associate Judges; and Reid,
case was submitted to the court on the transcript of record
and the briefs filed, and without presentation of oral
argument. On consideration whereof, and for the reasons set
forth in the opinion filed this date, it is now hereby
and ADJUDGED that the judgment of the Superior Court is
Phyllis D. Thompson Associate Judge
litigation commenced when appellee Matthew Dornic filed a
complaint for partition-by-sale of two properties that are
owned by Mr. Dornic and appellant Glenn Ballard as joint
tenants: a single family home located at 3134 Dumbarton
Street, N.W. ("the Dumbarton Property"), where Mr.
Ballard resides, and a condominium unit located at 1767 U
Street N.W., Unit 1 ("the U Street Property"). Mr.
Ballard seeks review of the trial court's ruling granting
Mr. Dornic's motion for partial summary judgment on his
claim for partition-by-sale and ordering the parties to
confer about who might be appointed as trustee to sell the
properties. We affirm.
granting Mr. Dornic's prayer for partition-by-sale,
Superior Court Judge John Campbell relied on the
well-established, general rule that "[a] cotenant enjoys
a unilateral right of partition." Rejecting Mr.
Ballard's argument that Mr. Dornic had voluntarily
limited his right to partition, Judge Campbell concluded that
the only question before the court was whether the partition
would be in kind or by sale.
first argument on appeal, Mr. Ballard asserts that Judge
Campbell erred (1) in assuming that an individual owning
property as a cotenant will lack the right to demand
partition only if the cotenants hold the property as tenants
by the entireties and (2) in rejecting Mr. Ballard's
claim that Mr. Dornic limited his right to partition by
failing to pay his fair share of the mortgages and other
expenses associated with each of the properties. Our review
of the trial court's legal conclusions is de
novo, and we review factual findings under a clearly
erroneous standard. See Arthur, 857 A.2d at 490.
case law recognizes that a cotenant's unilateral
"right to partition, while normally an integral part of
the cotenancy form of ownership, is like most property rights
subject to possible limitation by voluntary act of the
parties[, ]" Carter, 516 A.2d at 921, such as
through the cotenants' agreement that one of the
cotenants is to have exclusive use and possession of the
property for some limited time period. Id. at 921
n.10; see also Robinson v. Evans, 554 A.2d 332, 338
(D.C. 1989) ("Carter establishes that the
parties had the power to restrict their own right to seek
partition[.]"). We therefore agree with Mr. Ballard that
the fact that an estate is not a tenancy by the entireties
does not negate the possibility that one of the cotenants
has, by a voluntarily act, restricted his right to seek
partition. But our agreement on this point does not help Mr.
Ballard's cause, because he cites no authority, and we
know of none, for his novel argument that a joint tenant
voluntarily restricts his right to partition by virtue of the
fact - as Mr. Ballard avers is the case with Mr. Dornic -
that he has paid a less-than-equal or relatively small share
of the expenses related to the property. Nor does the summary