United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. Mehta, United States District Court Judge.
afternoon of November 28, 2017, Plaintiff Termia Logan was
assaulted while on an escalator that connects the Union
Station metro stop to ground-level retail stores. Am. Compl.,
ECF No. 16 [hereinafter Compl.], ¶¶ 20, 21. As
Plaintiff walked up the escalator, she encountered a group of
teenage boys standing ahead of her on the left side, which is
generally understood to be the side used to pass.
Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff asked one of the boys to
allow her to pass and, as she walked by, he sucker-punched
her in the face once she reached the top of the escalator.
Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff was hit with such force
that she lost consciousness and fell to the ground.
Id. She remained bleeding on the floor of Union
Station for an indeterminate amount of time before a Security
Officer arrived on the scene. Id. ¶¶
22-23. When he arrived, the Security Officer told Plaintiff
that there was nothing he could do to assist her, and he
instructed her to get up and move out of the way of other
pedestrians. Id. ¶ 23. The officer did not
offer her assistance or offer to call for medical help.
Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff ultimately called for
assistance herself. Id. ¶ 25. She was treated
at a nearby hospital for her injuries. Id. ¶
brought this action in August 2018 in the Superior Court for
the District of Columbia, and in October 2018 Defendant
removed to this court. See Notice of Removal, ECF
No. 1. Plaintiff asserts claims of (1) negligence and (2)
negligent training and supervision against Defendants Jones
Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc., a real estate and investment
management firm that manages and operates Union Station, and
Professional Security Consultants, Inc., the company
responsible for security at Union Station. Compl.
¶¶ 4-8, 30-39, 45-51. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants
breached a duty of reasonable care owed to her in numerous
ways, including by “failing to provide adequate
security for the users and business invitees of Union
Station” and by failing to offer Plaintiff assistance
after she was injured. Id. ¶¶ 37, 47.
Defendants have moved to dismiss all counts. See
Def. Jones Lang LaSalle America's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF
No. 19 [hereinafter JLLA's Mot.]; Def. Professional
Security Consultants' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 24
[hereinafter PSC's Mot.]. Defendant Jones Lang LaSalle
also moves to strike certain references to the Security
Officer's actions after Plaintiff's assault.
JLLA's Mot., JLLA's Mem. in Support of Mot. to
Dismiss, ECF No. 19 [hereinafter JLLA's Mem.], at 14-15.
For the reasons stated below, the court grants in part and
denies in part both Motions.
court begins with Plaintiff's negligence claim. Plaintiff
alleges Defendants were negligent for their failure to
“patrol and ensure a visible presence” and to
“take such precautions as were reasonably necessary to
protect . . . Plaintiff from physical assaults . . . which
were reasonably foreseeable.” Compl. ¶¶ 31,
43 (cleaned up). To establish negligence under District of
Columbia law, a plaintiff must allege: (1) “a duty of
care owed by the defendant to the plaintiff, ” (2)
“a breach of that duty by the defendant, ” and
(3) “damage to the interests of the plaintiff,
proximately caused by the breach.” Sigmund v.
Starwood Urban Retail VI, LLC, 617 F.3d 512, 514 (D.C.
Cir. 2010) (quoting Dist. of Columbia v. Beretta, U.S.A.
Corp., 872 A.2d 633, 642 n.3 (D.C. 2005) (en banc)
(internal quotation omitted)). Here, Defendants argue only
that they did not owe a duty of care to Plaintiff.
Defendants contend that they owed no duty of care because the
criminal assault was not foreseeable. JLLA's Mem. at
10-13; PSC's Mot., PSC's Mem. in Support of Mot. to
Dismiss, ECF No. 24-1 [hereinafter PSC's Mem.], at 6-14.
“As a general rule, a private person does not have a
duty to protect another from a criminal attack by a third
person.” Kline v. 1500 Mass. Ave. Apartment
Corp., 439 F.2d 477, 481 (D.C. Cir. 1970). To impose
liability for the criminal actions of others, a plaintiff
must make a “more heightened showing of foreseeability
than would be required if the act were merely
negligent.” Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Dist. of
Columbia v. DiSalvo, 974 A.2d 868, 870 (D.C. 2009).
“In such a case, the plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing that the criminal act was so foreseeable
that a duty arises to guard against it.”
Sigmund, 617 F.3d at 514 (quoting Beretta,
872 A.2d at 641) (emphasis in original). “The crux of
heightened foreseeability is a showing of the defendant's
‘increased awareness of the danger of a particular
criminal act.'” DiSalvo, 974 A.2d at 872
(citation omitted). “Generic” notice of criminal
activity in the area is insufficient. Beretta, 872
A.2d at 642. Rather, the plaintiff must establish “that
the facts demonstrating heightened foreseeability show[ ], if
not awareness of the precise risk, close similarity in nature
or temporal and spatial proximity to the crime at
issue.” DiSalvo, 974 A.2d at 874.
a close call, the court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently
pleaded facts that make it plausible that Defendants owed her
a duty to guard against the assault that she suffered.
Plaintiff alleges that “in the year leading up to [her]
violent assault, there had been a series of assaults . . .
and other violent incidents in the subway and bus system,
including at Union Station . . . which had police searching
for small groups of teenagers and young adults whom they
believe committed at least eight (8) attacks.” Compl.
¶ 16. Further, she asserts that “[i]n the months
leading up to the brutal assault on Plaintiff, there had been
seven (7) violent crimes and twenty-two (22) thefts within
500 feet of the location where Plaintiff was
assaulted.” Id. ¶ 17. These alleged
facts, even if proven true, might not withstanding a motion
for summary judgment, because they lack the kind of
“precision” required by District of Columbia law
to hold a defendant liable for injury resulting from
intervening criminal acts. DiSalvo, 974 A.2d at 873;
see also Sigmund, 617 F.3d at 516-17 (finding no
duty where the plaintiff, a victim of a pipe bombing in a
parking garage, did not come forward with facts showing other
bombings or similar violent assaults had occurred in the
parking garage). But at the motion to dismiss stage, where
the plaintiff need only plead enough factual matter to
establish that a duty of care is plausible, Plaintiff's
averments suffice. See Atherton v. D.C. Office of the
Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
authorities upon which Defendants rely are distinguishable,
as most were decided at the summary judgment stage or later.
See JLLA's Mem. at 10-11 (citing
DiSalvo, 974 A.2d 868 (judgment as a matter of law);
Lacy v. District of Columbia, 424 A.2d 317 (D.C.
1980) (motion for new trial)); PSC's Mot. at 7-14
(citing, among other cases, Bruno v. Western Union Fin.
Servs., 973 A.2d 713 (D.C. 2009) (summary judgment);
Bailey v. District of Columbia, 668 A.2d 817 (D.C.
1995) (summary judgment); Clement v. Peoples Drug Store,
Inc., 634 A.2d 425 (D.C. 1993) (directed verdict);
McKethean v. WMATA, 588 A.2d 708 (D.C. 1991)
(summary judgment); District of Columbia v. Doe, 524
A.2d 30 (D.C. 1987) (affirming jury verdict); Ellis v.
Safeway Stores, Inc., 410 A.2d 1381 (D.C. 1979) (summary
judgment); Cook v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 354 A.2d
507 (D.C. 1976) (directed verdict)). These cases strongly
signal that determining whether a duty exists is better
evaluated on a full factual record that establishes the
precise nature and location of relevant prior criminal
activity and the defendant's knowledge of such activity.
The sole case that Defendants cite decided on a motion to
dismiss, Jacobs v. Experts, Inc., is inapposite, as
there the facts alleged to establish heightened
foreseeability lacked the “temporal and spatial
proximity” to the crime at issue, the Navy Yard
shooting. 212 F.Supp.3d 55, 104 (D.D.C. 2016). Here, by
contrast, Plaintiff has pleaded that a group of young people
had committed similar crimes in and around Union Station in
the preceding year. See Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.
Granting Plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences
that can be derived from these facts, her Complaint makes out
a claim of negligence against both Defendants.
Professional Security Consultants (“PSC”)
additionally maintains that as a private security firm,
rather than a landlord, it owes no duty to the general public
to protect against the crimes of third parties. See
PSC's Mem. at 15-17. Defendant relies on case law
specific to police officers, id., who “are
under no general duty to provide public services, such as
police protection, to any particular individual
citizen.” Warren v. Dist. of Columbia, 444
A.2d 1, 3 (D.C. 1981) (en banc). These cases are inapposite,
however, as they involve a public police force, not a private
the court must decide whether, by providing security services
at Union Station, PSC assumed a common law duty to third
parties like Plaintiff to exercise reasonable care in
performing security services. See Ridgell v. HP Enter.
Servs., LLC, 209 F.Supp.3d 1, 49-52 (D.D.C. 2016);
Figueroa v. Evangelical Covenant Church, 879 F.2d
1427, 1433-34 (7th Cir. 1989). In the District of Columbia,
“a legal duty arises when a party undertakes to render
services to another which he should recognize as necessary
for the protection of a third person or his things.”
Presley v. Commer. Moving & Rigging, Inc., 25
A.3d 873 (D.C. 2011) (cleaned up) (quoting Haynesworth v.
D.H. Stevens Co., 645 A.2d 1095, 1097 (D.C. 1994);
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 324A (1965)). Courts
have looked “to the contract to determine the scope of
the undertaking as it relates to the protection of the third
party.” Ridgell, 209 F.Supp.3d at 49 (quoting
Presley, 25 A.3d at 888). See also Caldwell v.
Bechtel, Inc., 631 F.2d 989, 996-1002 (D.C. Cir. 1980)
(contractor responsible for overseeing safety on public
transit project had tort law duty to construction ...