Submitted September 19, 2017
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(2014-CAB-8071) (Hon. Maurice A. Ross, Trial Judge)
Brooks, pro se, was on the brief.
Wendell Robinson was on the brief for appellees.
Glickman, Beckwith, and Easterly, Associate Judges.
Glickman, Associate Judge.
David Brooks sued appellees Michael Rosebar and Erin Rosebar
for defamation in 2014 based on reviews they allegedly wrote
online about his security camera business. The trial court
entered a default against Ms. Rosebar as a sanction for
violating court orders in the discovery process, and the case
against Mr. Rosebar proceeded. During a September 2016 court
hearing, Mr. Brooks and Mr. Rosebar's counsel orally
agreed to settle the case, but Mr. Brooks, proceeding pro
se, made conflicting statements about whether he
intended for the settlement to cover his claims against both
Mr. and Ms. Rosebar. In a subsequent letter to the judge, Mr.
Brooks alleged that he clarified that he had never intended
to settle his claim against Ms. Rosebar, against whom he
(mistakenly) believed he had obtained a default
judgment. The court found, however, that Mr. Brooks
had agreed to settle his claims against both of the Rosebars
and dismissed the case with prejudice. In this appeal, Mr.
Brooks asserts that the court violated his due process rights
in so dismissing his case, in part because there was no
"meeting of the minds" between the parties as to
material terms of the proposed settlement. We agree that, on
the record before us, there is insufficient evidence of a
meeting of the minds. We therefore vacate the dismissal and
remand for further proceedings.
case before us began on December 18, 2014, when Mr. Brooks
filed a defamation complaint against Michael and Erin
Rosebar. However, to understand the issues in the
case, we must go back further-to 2007. That year, Mr. Brooks
loaned the Rosebars $30, 000, secured with a promissory note
and a rental stream as collateral. The Rosebars never repaid
the loan, and Mr. Brooks eventually won a judgment in
Superior Court entitling him to the $30, 000 plus
interest. Mr. Brooks spent years attempting
unsuccessfully to collect on the judgment, during which time
Mr. Rosebar filed numerous civil complaints against him, also
unsuccessfully. On December 3, 2013, the court ordered that
the civil clerk no longer accept claims by Mr. Rosebar
against Mr. Brooks without leave of the court because those
claims appeared to be "an attempt to use judicial
process to bar Mr. Brooks from recovering a debt to which
this Court has already determined that he is legally
that December, negative reviews of Mr. Brooks's security
camera business, which had been operational for eight years,
were posted online. These reviews alleged that Mr. Brooks
"has stolen money from my family[, ]" "does
not hold . . . proper [business] license[s, ]" is
"using this legitimate business as a front for illegal,
commercial, and personal loan sharking and predatory
lending[, ]" "is a criminal" and has been
"taking pictures off the internet social media websites
of your children." Mr. Brooks claims that after the
reviews were posted, he received no new referrals from the
Internet and his business closed within one year. In December
of 2014, Mr. Brooks, believing that the Rosebars had posted
the negative reviews, sued the Rosebars for defamation,
seeking both injunctive relief and damages. He also requested
as relief that the court "declar[e] the [r]eviews false
and defamatory . . . ."
connection with this case, Mr. Brooks attempted to depose Ms.
Rosebar multiple times, but she either did not show up to or
refused to answer questions at the scheduled depositions,
notwithstanding court orders to comply. As a result, the
court entered a default against Ms. Rosebar on May 19, 2016.
Mr. Brooks did not move to have a default judgment entered
against Ms. Rosebar, and no further actions were pursued as
to that default.
September 2, 2016, Mr. Brooks and the attorney Wendell
Robinson, who had previously represented both Rosebars,
appeared in court for a motions date that the court had set
sua sponte. Neither of the Rosebars appeared. When
the court inquired as to whom Mr. Robinson represented, he
stated, "I'm representing only Mr. Rosebar because
you've already entered a judgment, a default against his
wife." In reality, no judgment had been entered against
Ms. Rosebar. The court, however, did not clarify the status
of the case against Ms. Rosebar.
the parties and the court addressed two unsuccessful motions
by Mr. Brooks, the court asked, "Mr. Brooks, you already
have sixteen judgments against Mr. Rosebar?" and Mr.
Brooks responded, "[y]es. I've, I offered to settle
for $800. They said no." The court asked, "[i]f you
walk away and agree not to sue him for five years,
wouldn't he and his wife agree not to sue you for five
years?" Mr. Robinson responded, "I certainly would
Robinson then stated that he "would have given 800 bucks
to get it over with." Mr. Brooks accepted the offer,
saying, "[f]ine, fine. . . . Fine, I accept." Mr.
Robinson said, "I'll give him a check. I'll
write him a check." At that point, the court told the
parties to "make sure you guys get it in writing."
quote the exchange that followed in detail because it
provides important context for assessing the question of
whether the parties entered into a valid, enforceable
MR. ROBINSON: Well, wait a minute, can we put it on the
record right now, Your Honor?
THE COURT: Okay, what's the offer?
MR. BROOKS: $800.
MR. ROBINSON: I will write a check for you for $800 . . .
and that will dismiss this case against both ...