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Civic v. Signature Collision Centers, LLC

Court of Appeals of The District of Columbia

December 19, 2019

Melanne Civic, Appellant,
v.
Signature Collision Centers, LLC and H.P. West End, LLC, Appellees.

          Argued October 8, 2019

          Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CAB-436-16) (Hon. Hiram E. Puig-Lugo, Trial Judge)

          Gregory S. Smith for appellant. Lawrence S. Lapidus was on the brief for appellant.

          Harry J. Carleton for appellee Signature Collision Centers, LLC.

          Charles L. Simmons, Jr., for appellee H.P. West End, LLC.

          Before Glickman, Beckwith, and McLeese, Associate Judges.

          McLeese, Associate Judge:

         Appellant Melanne Civic sued appellees Signature Collision Centers, LLC and H.P. West End, LLC, alleging that their negligence was responsible for injuries she suffered in a fall. A jury found that Signature and H.P. West End had been negligent, but that Ms. Civic's contributory negligence barred her from recovering. Ms. Civic argues on appeal primarily that the trial court erroneously declined to instruct the jury on the issue of per se negligence. We affirm.

         I.

         Except as indicated, the following facts appear to be undisputed. In February 2013, Ms. Civic fell on a "handicap ramp" while walking out of an automobile-repair shop operated by Signature and owned by H.P. West End. Ms. Civic testified that she fell because of an unmarked vertical and horizontal gap between a landing and the ramp. Ms. Civic introduced expert testimony that the vertical component of the gap was two to three inches and that the gap was inconsistent with the requirements of the District of Columbia Building Code. According to Ms. Civic's expert, the gap was unsafe and contrary to applicable standards of care.

         The defense elicited testimony that Ms. Civic had previously gone in and out of the repair shop, that she did not recall whether she was using the handrail when she fell, and that she was carrying a boot and a cell phone when she fell.

         Ms. Civic asked the trial court to instruct the jury that if the jury found that Signature and H.P. West End violated D.C. Building Code § 1003.6, then the jury was required to find that Signature and H.P. West End were negligent. At the time of the incident at issue, § 1003.6 required among other things that a path of egress consist of a "continuous unobstructed path of vertical and horizontal egress travel."

         The trial court declined to give the requested instruction. The trial court did, however, give an instruction that if the jury found that Signature and H.P. West End violated § 1003.6, the jury could consider that violation as evidence of negligence. Relatedly, the trial court instructed the jury, over Ms. Civic's objection, that if the jury found that Ms. Civic's ...


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