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.
Robinson was on the brief for appellees.
Glickman, Beckwith, and Easterly, Associate Judges.
Appellant 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. Rosebars
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
that December, negative reviews of Mr. Brookss 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
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, "Im representing only
Mr. Rosebar because youve 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. Ive, 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,
wouldnt he and his wife agree not to sue you for ...