October 8, 2019
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CAB-436-16), (Hon. Hiram E. Puig-Lugo, Trial Judge)
S. Smith for appellant. Lawrence S. Lapidus was on the brief
J. Carleton for appellee Signature Collision Centers, LLC.
L. Simmons, Jr., for appellee H.P. West End, LLC.
Glickman, Beckwith, and McLeese, Associate Judges.
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. Civics 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
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. Civics expert, the gap was unsafe and
contrary to applicable standards of care.
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.
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
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. Civics objection, that if the jury found that Ms.