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Last Reviewed / Modified On 29 Oct 2018.


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Statutes of Limitation

Bodily Injury

Three (3) Year Statute of Limitations. D.C. Code § 12-301(8).

Negligence Causing Death

Two (2) Year Statute of Limitations from date of death. D.C. Code §16-2702

Property Damage

Three (3) Year Statute of Limitations. D.C. Code § 12-301(3)

UM/UIM Claims

a) Three (3) Year Statute of Limitations for Bodily Injury. D.C. Code § 12-301(8).

b) Three (3) Year Statute of Limitations for Property Damage D.C. Code § 12-301(3).

Breach of Contract

Simple Contract, express or implied: Three (3) Year Statute of Limitations. D.C. Code § 12-301(7).

Minor Statute of Limitations

a)Three (3) years past eighteenth birthday for personal injury. D.C. Code § 12-302(a).

b)Age of majority in D.C. is 18. D.C. Code § 46-101.

Negligent Entrustment, Hiring, Retention and Supervision

Negligent Entrustment

a) D.C. recognizes the tort of Negligent Entrustment. To succeed on this claim, a plaintiff must prove that a vehicle supplier knew or should have known the user was likely to use the vehicle in a manner involving risk of physical harm to others and the vehicle supplier should expect those others to be endangered by the vehicle’s use. Young v. U-Haul Co., 11 A.3d 247, 249 (2011).

b) "Generally, negligent entrustment of a vehicle . . . is imposed only where the owner entrusts the vehicle to one whose appearance or conduct is such as to indicate his incompetency or inability to operate the vehicle with care." Young v. U-Haul Co., 11 A.3d 247, 250 (2011).

Negligent Hiring & Negligent Retention

a) D.C. recognizes the torts of Negligent Hiring and Negligent Retention. To succeed on a claim of Negligent Hiring, a Plaintiff must show that the Defendant knew or should have known that a tortfeasor behaved in a dangerous or otherwise incompetent manner, and that despite this actual or constructive knowledge, failed to adequately supervise him. Jacobs v. Experts, Inc., 212 F. Supp. 3d 55, 83 (D.D.C. 2016).

b) A plaintiff’s attempt to equate a mental illness with an employee’s violent tendency must fail. Jacobs v. Experts, Inc., 212 F. Supp. 3d 55, 84 (D.D.C. 2016).

c) To succeed on a claim of Negligent Retention a Plaintiff must prove that an employer retained a dangerous employee who the employer knew or should have known was dangerous and likely to harm others. Phelan v. City of Mr. Rainier, 805 A.2d 930, 940 n.11 (D.C. 2002).

Negligent Supervision

D.C. recognizes liability of an employer for negligent supervision. Phelan v. City of Mr. Ranier, 805 A.2d 930, 937-38 (D.C. 2002).

Negligent Training

D.C. recognizes the tort of negligent training. Dist. of Columbia v. White, 442 A.2d 159, 164 (D.C. 1982).

Course and Scope of Employment

Standard of Review

a) Employers are generally liable for employee torts that are committed within the scope of employment. Wilson v. Good Humor Corp., 244 U.S. App. D.C. 298, 757 F.2d 1293, 1301 (D.C. Cir. 1985).

b) Factors used in determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists include: (1) the selection and engagement of the servant, (2) the payment of wages, (3) the power to discharge, (4) the power to control the servant's conduct, (5) and whether the work is part of the regular business of the employer. Judah v. Reiner, 744 A.2d at 1040 (citing LeGrand v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 241 A.2d 734, 735 (D.C. 1968)).

c) The employer's right to control and direct the daily activities of the employee is usually considered "the determinative factor." District of Columbia v. Hampton, 666 A.2d 30, 38 (D.C. 1995) (citing Safeway Stores, Inc. v. Kelly, 448 A.2d 856, 860 (D.C. 1982)).

d) The party asserting the employer-employee relationship has the burden of proving it. District of Columbia v. Hampton, 666 A.2d 30, 38 (D.C. 1995).

Legal Rule

To establish a claim of vicarious liability in D.C., a plaintiff must demonstrate (a) the existence of an agency relationship between the alleged employee and employer, and (b) that the alleged employee was acting within the scope of his employment. Judah v. Reiner, 744 A.2d 1037, 1039-40 (D.C. 2000).

Contributory Negligence

D.C. Is a Pure Contributory Negligence Jurisdiction.

a) D.C. recognizes the affirmative defense of contributory negligence. Sinai v. Polinger Co., 498 A.2d 520, 524 (D.C. 1985).

b) In evaluating the propriety of a Contributory Negligence Instruction, D.C. law requires the defendant to establish proof that the plaintiff, by encountering the risk created by the defendant’s breach of duty, departed from an objective standard of reasonable care. Juvenalis v. Dist. of Columbia, 955 A.2d 187, 193 (D.C. 2008).

The Last Clear Chance Doctrine

a) D.C. recognizes the Last Clear Chance doctrine, which is an exception to the affirmative defense of Contributory Negligence. Fisher v. Latney, 146 A.3d 88, 93 (D.C. 2016).

b) The Last Clear Chance Doctrine is available where the plaintiff can demonstrate that the defendant had a superior opportunity to avoid the accident. For a judge to grant the Last Clear Chance instruction, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove the following elements:

  1. that the plaintiff was in a position of danger caused by the negligence of both plaintiff and defendant;
  2. that the plaintiff was oblivious to the danger, or unable to extricate [himself] from the position of danger;
  3. that the defendant was aware, or by the exercise of reasonable case should have been aware, of the plaintiff's danger and of [his] oblivion to it or [his] inability to extricate [himself] from it; and
  4. that the defendant, with means available to him, could have avoided injuring the plaintiff after becoming aware of the danger and the plaintiff's inability to extricate [himself] from it, but failed to do so. Fisher v. Latney, 146 A.3d 88, 93 (D.C. 2016).

The Sudden Emergency Doctrine.

a) D.C. recognizes the Sudden Emergency Doctrine, however, it is rare and applies only as a defense to a plaintiff’s contributory negligence. Phillips v. Fujitec Am., Inc., 3 A.3d 324, 330 (D.C. 2010). The last case to uphold a plaintiff’s successful claim of Sudden Emergency occurred before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals was established by Congress. Kelley v. Safeway Stores, Inc., 267 F.2d 683 (D.C. Cir. 1959).

b)Under D.C. law, a plaintiff may be entitled to a Sudden Emergency instruction when her action—which defendant claims is why she was contributorily negligent—is a reasonable response made in haste to an imminent danger. Phillips v. Fujitec Am., Inc., 3 A.3d 324, 330 (D.C. 2010).

Contribution or Implied Indemnity from Third Parties


a) D.C. is a joint and several liability jurisdiction.

b) When two or more tortfeasors contribute to produce a single injury, each may be held severally liable for the full amount of the judgment. Beckman v. Farmer, 579 A.2d 618, 654-55 (1990) (citing Leiken v. Wilson, 445 A.2d 993, 999 (D.C.1982)).

c) In this situation, compensatory damages in tort are non-apportionable, regardless of whether the tortfeasors act separately or in conjunction with one another. Beckman v. Farmer, 579 A.2d 618, 655 (1990) (citing Hill v. McDonald, 442 A.2d 133, 137-38 & n.3 (D.C.1982); Remeikis v. Boss & Phelps, Inc., 419 A.2d 986, 991-92 (D.C.1980)).

d) Whether [joint tortfeasors] act independently or in concert, the nexus between them and the person their acts combine to injure is not and has not been entire. Each is bound to him separately and for the full injury. . . . It is no defense for wrongdoers that others aided in causing the harm. Each is responsible for the whole. Beckman v. Farmer, 579 A.2d 618, 655 (1990) (quoting McKenna v. Austin, 77 U.S. App. D.C. 228, 233, 134 F.2d 659, 664 (1943)).

Implied Indemnity

a) D.C. recognizes the principle of implied indemnity. Howard University v. Good Food Services, Inc., 608 A.2d 116, 122–23 (D.C. 1992).

b) Indemnity is a common law remedy that arises from an express or implied contract giving the right of complete reimbursement to one party who has been compelled by law to pay what the other party should pay. Howard University v. Good Food Services, Inc., 608 A.2d 116, 122 (D.C. 1992).

c) An obligation to indemnify exists where the equities of the case and the relationship of the parties support shifting responsibility from one party to another. Nat'l Health Labs., Inc. v. Ahmadi, 596 A.2d 555, 557-58 (D.C. 1991).

d) In the absence of an express contractual duty to indemnify, a right to indemnity exists where a duty to indemnify may be implied out of a relationship between the parties to prevent a result which is unjust. |Howard University v. Good Food Services, Inc., 608 A.2d 116, 122 (D.C. 1992) (citing East Penn Mfg. Co. v. Pineda, 578 A.2d 1113, 1126 (D.C. 1990)).

e) In order to establish the right to this particular type of implied indemnity, the [indemnity] obligation must arise out of a specific duty of defined nature - separate from the injury to the [plaintiff] - owed to the third party and there must also be a special legal relationship between the tortfeasors. Quadrangle Dev. Corp. v. Otis Elevator Co., 748 A.2d 432, 435 (D.C. 2000) (inner quotations omitted).

f) However, where both joint tortfeasors are guilty of active negligence, and the negligence of both concur in causing the injury, neither is entitled to indemnity against the other. Quadrangle Dev. Corp. v. Otis Elevator Co., 748 A.2d 432, 435-36 (D.C. 2000).

Accrual for Contribution and Implied Indemnity

a) Under the law of the District of Columbia, a right of contribution accrues when two or more parties are joint tortfeasors (i.e., when each party "was at fault in bringing about the injury to the innocent party"), and "in justice each tortfeasor should share his part in the burden of making the injured party whole again." Hall v. George A. Fuller Co., 621 A.2d 848, 850 (1993).

b) The right to contribution only becomes enforceable when the party seeking contribution has to pay. Paul v. Bier, 758 A.2d 40, 47 (2000).

c) The general rule is that the right to sue for indemnification (absent a specific contract for indemnity to the contrary) accrues when payment has been legally made by the indemnitee. District of Columbia v. D. C. Transit System, Inc., 248 A.2d 184, 186 (D.C. 1968).

d) As an equitable remedy, contribution is available only to "unintentional or negligent tortfeasors," not to "intentional and willful wrongdoers." George's Radio, Inc. v. Capital Transit Co., 75 U.S. App. D.C. 187, 189, 126 F.2d 219, 221 (D.C.App. 1942).

e) Fairness dictates that all defendants, whether they choose to settle or litigate, file cross-claims for contribution before the verdict in order to give notice to other defendants that they will be required to pay their fair share of damages to a joint tortfeasor in the event that they are found liable. Paul v. Bier, 758 A.2d 40, 48 (D.C. 2000).

Exclusivity of Workers Compensation

The D.C. Worker’s Compensation Bar

a) "The compensation to which an employee is entitled under this chapter shall constitute the employee's exclusive remedy against the employer . . . for any illness, injury, or death arising out of and in the course of his employment . . . ." D.C. CODE § 32-1504 (b) (2001).

b) The workers' compensation statute of the District of Columbia affords immunity to employers from tort actions by their employees for personal injuries arising out of and in the course of their employment. USA Waste of Md., Inc. v. Love, 954 A.2d 1027, 1032 (2008).

Seat Belt and Helmet Use

Seat Belt Defense

Although D.C. is a contributory negligence jurisdiction, trial courts are prohibited from instructing the jury that the failure to wear a seatbelt is evidence of contributory negligence. McCord v. Green, 362 A.2d 720, 722 (D.C. 1976).

Helmet Use

A defendant may argue that a plaintiff’s failure to wear a protective helmet constitutes contributory negligence. See Barrera v. Wilson, 668 A.2d 871 (D.C. 1995).


Negligent or Reckless Spoliation of Evidence

a) District of Columbia recognizes an independent tort claim for negligent or reckless spoliation of evidence. Holmes v. Amerex Rent-A-Car, 710 A.2d 846, 849 (D.C. 1998).

b) Elements of Spoliation claim:

  1. Duty of care owed on behalf of defendant that arises out of a special relationship that creates a duty to preserve the evidence for use in future litigation. Holmes v. Amerex Rent-A-Car, 710 A.2d 846, 849 (D.C. 1998).
  2. Breach of said duty. Holmes v. Amerex Rent-A-Car, 710 A.2d 846, 849 (D.C. 1998).
  3. The underlying claim was significantly impaired due to the spoliation of evidence; a proximate relationship exists between the projected failure of success in the underlying action and the unavailability of the destroyed evidence; and that the underlying lawsuit would enjoy a significant possibility of success if the spoliated evidence were still in existence. Holmes v. Amerex Rent-A-Car, 710 A.2d 846, 849 (D.C. 1998).



General Damage Caps

There is no general damages cap except for violations of the D.C. Human Rights Act.

Joint and Several Liability

a) Two or more tortfeasors may be held jointly and severally liable, meaning that each tortfeaser is responsible for paying 100% of the damages, but the Plaintiff may not recover twice. Hill v. McDonald, 442 A.2d 133, 137 (D.C. 1982).

a) If one tortfeasor settles with a plaintiff before or during trial, the non-settling defendant may request a pro rata deduction of the verdict on the basis that his settling counterparts were negligent and must give the plaintiff fair notice of his intention. Washington v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 579 A.2d 177, 188 (D.C. 1990).

Standard of Proof Required for Compensatory Damages

a) A Plaintiff must establish both the fact of the damages and the amount of damages with reasonable certainty. The proof need not be mathematically precise, however; what is required is some evidence which allows the trier of fact to make a reasoned judgment rather than an award based on speculation or guesswork. Magdalene Campbell & Fort Lincoln Civic Ass’n v. Fort Lincoln New Town Corp., 55 A.3d 379, 387 - 88

Collateral Source

D.C.’s Collateral Source Rule

a) An injured party may recover full compensatory damages from a tortfeasor regardless of the payment of any amount of those damages by an independent party. Bushong v. Park, 837 A.29 49, 57 (D.C. 2003).

b) Evidence of benefits paid by a collateral source is inadmissible unless “that evidence clearly has probative value on an issue unrelated to damages.” Bushong v. Park, 837 A.29 49, 57 (D.C. 2003).

Hedonic Damages

a) Hedonic Damages are not recoverable in D.C. Estate of Lucy v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 1989 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6453 (citing Richardson v. District of Columbia, 116 Daily Wash. Law Rept. 2609, 2612 (Dec. 14, 1988)).

Life Care Plans

a) Life care plans are admissible in the District of Columbia, but the reasons for their creation are not. Bushong v. Park, 837 A.2d 49, 58 (D.C. 2003).

b) A life care plan must recommend items that are reasonable and necessary and based on accurate calculations and substantial evidence for the future treatment of a plaintiff’s injuries. Calva-Cerqueira v. United States, 281 F. Supp. 2d 279, 300 (D.D.C. 2003).

Wrongful Death and Survival Standing and Damages

Wrongful Death and Survival – Simultaneous Actions

a) A plaintiff is entitled to maintain two causes of action simultaneously upon death of a tort victim: one under the Wrongful Death Act, D.C. Code § 16-2701, and the other under the Survival Act, D.C. Code § 12-101. Waldon v. Covington, 415 A.2d 1070, 1075 n.4 (D.C. 1980).

b) A survival action seeks to compensate the decedent’s estate for the violation of the decedent’s security and property interests. Weil v. Seltzer, 873 F.2d 1453, 1462 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

c) The wrongful death claim compensates the spouse and next of kin for their loss resulting from the decedent’s death. Weil v. Seltzer, 873 F.2d 1453, 1462 (D.C. Cir. 1989).


a) A wrongful death action may only be brought “by and in the name of the personal representative of the deceased person.” D.C. Code §16-2702.

b) A survival action must be brought in the name of the legal representative. D.C. Code § 12-101.

c) Any wrongful death action must be brought within two years after the death of the injured person. D.C. Code §16-2702.


a) D.C. law permits recovery of the following damages in a wrongful death action:

  1. Loss of prospective economic benefit (lost income minus expenses, not adjusting for inflation). Hughes v. Pender, 391 A.2d 259, 261 (D.C. 1978).
  2. Funeral expenses are recoverable in wrongful death cases. Runyon v. Dist. of Columbia, 463 F.2d 1319, 1322 (D.C. Cir. 1972).
  3. Medical expenses incurred to treat mortal injuries. Runyon v. Dist. of Columbia, 463 F.2d 1319, 1322 (D.C. Cir. 1972).
  4. Recovery for grief, mental anguish, and sentimental loss is not permitted. Himes v. Medstar-Georgetown Univ. Med. Ctr., 753 F. Supp. 2d 89, 101 (D.D.C. 2010).

b) D.C. law does not have a statutory cap on damages. In re Air Crash Disaster at Washington, 559 F. Supp. 333, 348 n.21 (D.D.C. 1983).

Punitive Damages

Punitive Damages are Recoverable in D.C.

a) Punitive Damages are available under D.C. law only when the defendant commits a tortious act accompanied with fraud, ill will, recklessness, wantonness, oppressiveness, willful disregard of the plaintiff’s right, or other circumstances tending to aggravate the injury. Jonathan Woodner Co. v. Breeden, 665 A.2d 929, 938 (D.C. 1995).

b)To sustain a claim for punitive damages, the plaintiff must show that the defendant acted with malice by clear and convincing evidence. Jonathan Woodner Co. v. Breeden, 665 A.2d 929, 938 (D.C. 1995).

c)Where a claim for punitive damages arises out of conduct that is the subject of a covered claim, an insurance company’s duty to defend extends to the punitive damages claim. Salus Corp. v. Continental Cas. Co., 478 A.2d 1067, 1071 (D.C. 1984).

Statuary Cap on Punitive Damages

D.C. has no statutory cap on Punitive Damages.

Punitive Damages are Insurable

There is no statutory or decisional prohibition against purchasing insurance to cover a punitive damages award.

Offers of Judgment

a) D.C. does allow offers of judgement.

b) A defendant may serve an offer to allow judgment at any time more than 10 days before trial begins. D.C. Sup. Ct. R. 68(a).

c) If the Court finds that the judgment finally obtained by the offeree is not more favorable than the offer of judgment, the offeree must pay the costs incurred after making the offer. D.C. Sup. Ct. R. 68(a).

d) “Costs” may include attorney’s fees as may be awarded by statute or otherwise in connection with the pending action. D.C. Sup. Ct. R. 68(b).

Policy Limits Disclosure

Under D.C. law, the limits of any motor vehicle liability policy or personal injury liability policy which are applicable to the claim must be provided to the Plaintiff. D.C. Code § 31-2403.01.

Claim for Past Medical Expenses For Injury Occurring During Child’s Minority

1. Parent may recover expenses and lost wages resulting from injuries sustained by their child. Lasley v. Georgetown Univ., 842 F. Supp. 593, 595 (D.D.C. 1994).

2. Parent is obligated to support an adult child who is incapacitated by a disability. Nelson v. Nelson, 548 A.2d 109, 117 (D.C. 1988).

May claimant recover general damages if they do not have their own auto-insurance? (“No pay to play”)

a) Yes. In D.C., a claimant may recover general damages, even if they do not have auto-insurance.

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