September 15, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CAB-3686-05) Hon. Judith N. Macaluso, Trial Judge
Michael Lasley for appellant.
Michael S. Steadman, Jr., with whom Michael N. Russo, Jr.,
was on the brief, for appellee Arnold.
Alexander, with whom John E. Rinaldi was on the brief, for
appellee U.S. Bank National Association.
Glickman and Fisher, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior
GLICKMAN, ASSOCIATE JUDGE:
Ruth Saunders contends the trial court erred in denying her
the equitable relief she sought from appellee Stephen T.
Hudgens for his breach of a contract to sell her a building.
Applying the doctrine of election of remedies to avoid a
double recovery for a single wrong, the trial judge ruled
that Saunders could not be granted a decree compelling
Hudgens to perform the contract because she had chosen to
obtain alternative relief, namely an award of monetary
damages from appellee Nathaniel X. Arnold for his tortious
inducement of Hudgens's breach. Saunders argues that she
had made no election and that she was entitled to receive
specific performance from Hudgens in addition
to damages from Arnold because she sought those
remedies from different defendants on different legal
theories of liability. Saunders is only partly right: we
agree that she had not elected her remedy and hence was not
precluded from seeking a decree of specific performance, but
not that she could get more than one satisfaction for the
wrong done to her. We hold that the judge should have
determined whether Saunders would be entitled to specific
performance as an alternative to damages and, if so, the
judge then should have permitted her to choose which remedy
to accept. We vacate the provisions of the judgment
respecting her relief and remand for further proceedings.
dispute before us concerns competing claims to a four-unit
apartment building located at 219 Adams Street, N.E., in
Washington, D.C. ("the Property"). On March 16,
2005, appellee Hudgens sold the Property to appellee Arnold.
The sale spawned two lawsuits in Superior Court.
appellant Saunders sued Messrs. Hudgens and Arnold in CAB No.
3686-05. As pertinent here, Saunders's complaint alleged
that Hudgens had breached a contract he had entered to sell
the Property to her, and that Arnold had conspired with
Hudgens to induce the breach. (In effect, the claim against
Arnold was one for tortious interference with the sales
contract, and we shall sometimes refer to it that way for
convenience.) The complaint sought both compensatory damages
and equitable relief that included cancellation of the sale
to Arnold and a decree of specific performance requiring
Hudgens to convey the Property to Saunders.
a group of tenants (or persons claiming to be tenants) sued
Hudgens and Arnold in CAB No. 8531-06, alleging that the sale
of the Property violated their rights under the Tenants'
Opportunity to Purchase Act ("TOPA"). The TOPA
plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief setting
aside the sale and compelling Hudgens to provide them with
statutory rights triggered by the sales contract.
civil actions were consolidated for pretrial and trial
proceedings. In 2010 the proceedings were stayed when Hudgens
filed for bankruptcy. Eventually, the stay was partially
lifted to permit the Superior Court litigation to go forward
with some restrictions. Among other things, the order lifting
the stay provided that it did "not extend to execution
or enforcement of any judgments against" Hudgens, and
that Hudgens and the bankruptcy trustee would not "be
expected, except to the extent they choose, to participate in
the litigation" other than as witnesses. Thereafter, the
Superior Court litigation resumed, apparently without
Hudgens's participation as a party.
pretrial order issued on December 28, 2010, the trial judge
ordered bifurcation of the consolidated trial proceedings,
with a jury trial for the jury-triable issues in
Saunders's case to precede a bench trial of the equitable
issues in both that case and the TOPA case. For Saunders,
this bifurcation meant a jury trial of her tortious
interference claim seeking an award of damages against Arnold
for conspiring to cause Hudgens to breach his contract to
sell the Property to Saunders, and then a bench trial on her
claim seeking a decree of specific performance of that sale.
conclusion of the jury trial, the judge instructed the jury
that the elements of Saunders's claim against Arnold
(1) an agreement by Mr. Arnold and Mr. Hudgens; (2) to
participate in a breach of Mr. Hudgens'[s] contract or
contracts with Ruth Saunders . . .; [ ] (3) an injury was
caused by an unlawful overt act performed by one of the
parties to the agreement; (4) pursuant to and in furtherance
of the common scheme.
predicate to this claim, the judge instructed the jury it
would have to find that a contract had been formed between
Hudgens and Saunders, "and if so what the terms of that
contract were." Finally, without objection from
appellant, the judge instructed the jury that if it found
Arnold had conspired to cause Hudgens's breach of
Saunders's contract to purchase the Property, it should
"fully compensate" her by awarding "damages
for breach of contract, " defined as "that amount
of money necessary to place the ...