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Little v. SunTrust Bank, Co-Trustee

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

March 28, 2019

Ross O. LITTLE, Co-Trustee, et al., Appellants,
v.
SUNTRUST BANK, Co-Trustee, Appellee.

         Argued January 31, 2019

Page 1273

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (LIT-19-15), (Hon. Gerald I. Fisher, Trial Judge)

         Michael J. Miller, pro hac vice, by special leave of court, with whom P. Randolph Seybold was on the brief, for appellants Henry L. Strong, Ross O. Little, John Henry Strong, Allana Hope Strong, and Kip Clayton Strong.

         Christopher A. Glaser, with whom William E. Davis, Washington, was on the brief, for appellee.

         Before Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, and Glickman and Fisher, Associate Judges.

          OPINION

         Fisher, Associate Judge:

         SunTrust Bank filed suit against Henry L. Strong, Ross O. Little, Kip Clayton Strong, John Henry Strong, and Allana Hope Strong (collectively, the "Strong Family") seeking court approval of its resignation as co-trustee of the Strong Family Trust and a complete release from liability. In response, the Strong Family filed counterclaims alleging breach of contract, breach of duty of loyalty, breach of fiduciary duty, and violation of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act ("CPPA"). The only issue before us is the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the CPPA counterclaim.[1] We vacate the section of the trial court’s judgment concerning the CPPA counterclaim and remand with instructions to dismiss for lack of standing.[2]

          I. Background

         In its counterclaim, the Strong Family alleges SunTrust violated the CPPA by making false representations about a proposed fee increase, its right to unilaterally increase its fees, and its right to resign as corporate trustee and obtain a complete release of liability. The Strong Family did not pay the higher fees, nor did it sign the broad release proffered by SunTrust. Nevertheless, it invokes the CPPA, which provides in part that it is "a violation of this chapter for any person to engage in an unfair or deceptive trade practice, whether or not any consumer is in fact misled, deceived, or damaged thereby, including to misrepresent as to a material fact which has a tendency to mislead." D.C. Code § 28-3904(e) (2018 Supp.).

          II. Standing Requirements

         "[E]ven though Congress created the District of Columbia court system under Article I of the Constitution, rather than

Page 1274

Article III, this court has followed consistently the constitutional standing requirement embodied in Article III." Grayson v. AT & T Corp.,15 A.3d 219, 224 (D.C. 2011) (en banc), amended, 140 A.3d 1155 (D.C. 2011). In light of a recent Supreme Court decision, we issued an order requesting the parties to address at oral argument whether the Strong Family had alleged an injury-in-fact sufficient to meet the requirement of standing. SeeSpokeo, Inc. v. Robins, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1549, 194 L.Ed.2d 635 (2016) ("a plaintiff [does not] automatically satisf[y] the injury-in-fact requirement ...


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