United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta United States District Judge
the court is Plaintiffs McDonald's USA, LLC, and
McDonald's Real Estate Company's Motion to Dismiss
Defendant William T. Craft's Counterclaims, in which
Plaintiffs seek dismissal of Defendant's claims for
breach of contract, negligence, and failure to abate
nuisance. See Answer & Countercl., ECF No. 10
[hereinafter Def.'s Answer & Countercls.]; Pls.'
Mot. to Dismiss Countercls., ECF No. 18, Pls.' Mem. in
Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 18-1 [hereinafter Pls.'
Mot. to Dismiss]. Plaintiffs assert that Defendant has not
plausibly stated any cognizable claim for relief and, even if
sufficiently pleaded, each claim is barred by the applicable
statute of limitations. See Pls.' Mot. to
Dismiss at 6. After thorough review of the parties'
briefs, the court grants Plaintiffs' Motion and dismisses
all of Defendant's counterclaims.
November 22, 1974, W. T. Craft, Inc., entered into a Deed of
Trust to purchase from Golden Arch Realty Corporation, a
piece of property designated as “Lot 105 in Square 5094
in the subdivision made by Golden Arch Realty Corp.”
Def.'s Answer & Countercls., Attach. 1, ECF No. 10-1
[hereinafter Def.'s Attach. 1], at 1-10 (Ex. A)
[hereinafter Def.'s Ex. A]. That property was subdivided
from a parcel of land owned by Golden Arch Realty Corp.,
Plaintiff McDonald's Real Estate Company's
predecessor in interest. Compl., ECF No. 1 [hereinafter
Pls.' Compl.], ¶ 12; Def.'s Answer &
Countercls. ¶ 1. In 1989, the corporation of W. T.
Craft, Inc., ceased to exist and Lot 105, Square 5094 was
conveyed to Willie T. Craft, Sr., and Shirley Craft.
Def.'s Answer & Countercls., Attach. 2, ECF No. 10-2
[hereinafter Def.'s Ex. F], at 10. Today, Plaintiffs
continue to own a restaurant on Lot 104, Square
5094-otherwise known as 4301 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue,
N.E. (“Plaintiffs' Property”). See
Def.'s Answer & Countercls. ¶ 1; Pls.'
Compl. ¶¶ 6, 9. Next door, at Lot 105, Square
5094-otherwise known as 4309 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue,
N.E. (“Defendant's Property”)-Willie T.
Craft, Sr., and Shirley Craft own and operate a strip mall,
in which three businesses are located. See
Def.'s Answer & Countercls. ¶¶ 1, 3;
Pls.' Compl. ¶¶ 3, 17. Defendant operates the
dry cleaners in the strip mall on behalf of his father,
Willie T. Craft, Sr. Def.'s Ex. F at 10. Defendant also
oversees and is responsible for paying the water and sewer
bills for all three businesses on the property. See
id.; Def.'s Answer & Countercls. ¶ 3.
single water line, originating on Defendant's Property,
services both Defendant's Property and Plaintiffs'
Property. See Def.'s Attach. 1 at 11-13 (Ex. B),
¶ 3; Def.'s Answer & Countercls. ¶¶ 4,
5; Pls.' Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. Following the
subdivision and sale of the original parcel of land, the
parties intended to install separate water lines, but they
never did so. See Def.'s Attach. 1 at 14-15 (Ex.
C) [hereinafter Def.'s Ex. C], at 1. At some point in
time, Willie T. Craft, Sr., informed Defendant that he had
suspicions the water billing was not accurate due to
Plaintiffs' restaurant's shared use of the water
line. See Def.'s Ex. F at 10, 12.
October 2012, Defendant first reported to D.C. Water &
Sewer (“D.C. Water”) that he believed he was
being erroneously charged for water supplied to and used by
Plaintiffs' restaurant. Def.'s Attach. 1 at 23-26
(Ex. E) [hereinafter Def.'s Ex. E], at 2; Def.'s Ex.
F at 10-11. D.C. Water investigated the claim,
determined the meter vault was in disrepair, and informed
Defendant that he was responsible for making the necessary
repairs. Def.'s Ex. E at 2. From March 2012 until
November 2013, D.C. Water sent Defendant “estimated
bills . . . reasonabl[y] based on the number and types of
business[es] in [Defendant's] side of the
property.” Def.'s Ex. E at 2; accord
Def.'s Ex. F at 11. D.C. Water confirmed for Defendant on
April 9, 2013, that Defendant's Property and
Plaintiffs' Property shared a single water line.
Def.'s Ex. F at 11. After Defendant made the necessary
repairs and a new meter vault was installed in November 2013,
D.C. Water gave Defendant “a significant financial
adjustment of more than $8, 900 to compensate him for water
[D.C. Water] could estimate was registered at his meter and
was subsequently billed to and paid by [Plaintiff] for the
period March 27, 2013 to January 29, 2014.” Def.'s
Ex. E at 2.Beginning in January 2014, D.C. Water
provided Defendant, as a courtesy, a special accounting
arrangement in which it adjusted Defendant's bill to
account for any water billed to Plaintiffs from
Defendant's account and separately billed Plaintiffs for
their water usage. Def.'s Ex. E at 2-3.
January 2015, Defendant sought a refund of $77, 237.04 from
D.C. Water on the theory that he had been erroneously charged
for Plaintiffs' water consumption between January 1974
and January 2014. See Def.'s Ex. F at 1. In a
letter to Defendant's counsel, dated February 27, 2015,
D.C. Water denied Defendant's claim, reminded Defendant
that it remained Plaintiffs' and Defendant's
responsibility to install a separate water line, and that
D.C. Water would discontinue its courtesy accounting services
in May 2015. See Def.'s Ex. E at 2-3. Following
an administrative hearing on March 1, 2016, D.C. Water
concluded that it was not legally responsible for refunding
Defendant any overpayments. Def.'s Ex. F at 13-14. The
Hearing Officer's written explanation stated that
Defendant had two years under D.C. law to bring such a refund
claim and because Defendant “knew with certainty that
his property and [Plaintiffs'] property were on the same
water line and that [Defendant] was paying for
[Plaintiffs'] water usage as of April 2013, ” his
refund claims were time barred. Def.'s Ex. F at 12-13.
Moreover, the Hearing Officer noted, Defendant and his father
had been aware of the problem prior to D.C. Water identifying
it; D.C. Water's reaction to the problem had far exceeded
its legal obligations; and any recourse Defendant sought
needed to be against Plaintiffs, not D.C. Water. See
Id. at 13.
party has undertaken the time and expense to install a
separate water line, despite D.C. Water's suggestion to
do so. Def.'s Ex. F at 11. D.C. Water extended its
courtesy billing practice until June 2015. Id. At
some point prior to March 2016, the parties reached an
agreement that Plaintiffs would pay Defendant for the
restaurant's water consumption. See id.
present dispute arose when Defendant threatened to shut off
the water to Plaintiffs' property on the theory that
Plaintiffs owe Defendant money for water that has been
inappropriately billed to him. See generally
Pls.' Compl. (seeking injunctive relief in the form of a
temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction
preventing Defendant from shutting off Plaintiffs' water
access, as well as a judicial determination of the rights and
responsibilities of the parties over the real property and
its water supply). The court granted Plaintiffs' Motion
for a Temporary Restraining Order, see Order, ECF
No. 6, and Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, see
Order, ECF No. 14. Defendant both moved to dismiss
Plaintiffs' Complaint and filed an Answer with three
counterclaims. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF
No. 9; Def.'s Answer & Countercls. The court denied
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on March 1, 2017.
See Mem. Op. & Order, ECF No. 16.
court now reviews Defendant's Counterclaims, which
Plaintiffs have moved to dismiss. See Pls.' Mot.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim is facially plausible when “the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
determining the plausibility of a claim, the court must
accept the plaintiff's factual allegations as true and
“construe the complaint ‘in favor of the
plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences
that can be derived from the facts alleged.'”
Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C.
Cir. 2012) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617
F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)). The court need not accept as
true either “a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation, ” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286 (1986), or “inferences . . . unsupported by the
facts set out in the complaint, ” Kowal v. MCI
Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
The factual allegations in the complaint need not be
“detailed”; however, the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure demand more than “an unadorned,
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “Threadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. If
the facts as alleged fail to establish that the plaintiff has
stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, then a court
must grant the defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See
Am. Chemistry Council, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Health &
Human Servs., 922 F.Supp.2d 56, 61 (D.D.C. 2013).