Search




Publications

Articles

Newsletter

Blog



Categories

Arbitration

Contribution

D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act

Defenses

District of Columbia

Employment Discrimination

Expert Witness Issues

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Federal Civil Procedure

Insurance

Jordan Coyne LLP news

Lead Paint Poisoning

Legal Ethics

Legal Malpractice

Liability of Agents and Brokers

Maryland

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Personal Jurisdiction

Police Civil Liability

School liability

Virginia

Workers Compensation



Most Recent Entries

Recent Case Notes from Jordan Coyne LLP

D.C. Court of Appeals clarifies the method to assign permanent partial disability awards

Jordan Coyne LLP is pleased to announce that Padraic Keane has been advanced to Partner

In Memoriam - James F. Jordan

Virginia Workers’ Compensation:  Injury After Clocking Out



Monthly Archives

May 2017

February 2017

November 2016

April 2016

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

May 2015

April 2015

October 2014

August 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

August 2013

July 2013

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

October 2010

August 2010

January 2010

November 2009

September 2009

August 2009

April 2009



Syndicate

RSS 2.0

 
Abuse of process claim in District of Columbia ends with summary judgment for defense
In Houlahan v. World wide Associationof Specialty Programs and Schools, 677 F.Supp. 2d 195 (D.D.C. Jan. 5, 2010), the Court awarded summary judgment to the defendants on the plaintiff's claim of abuse of process. The abuse of process claim was grounded on a defamation lawsuit that the defendants had filed against the plaintiff in Utah, allegedly to deter the plaintiff, a journalist, from further investigation of the defendants and from publishing his work.

The Court determined that there was no substantive difference between D.C. law and Utah law concerning abuse of process claims, and therefore applied D.C. law. However, the opinion contains a useful summary of the D.C. choice of law analysis in tort cases.

A federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction applies the choice of law rules of the forum state, Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Travelers Indem. Co., 78 F.3d 639, 642 (D.C.Cir.1996) (citing Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 61 S.Ct. 1020, 85 L.Ed. 1477 (1941)), here the District of Columbia. Under District of Columbia law, the first step in the choice of law analysis requires the court to determine whether there is any conflict among the potentially applicable legal standards. Young Women's Christian Ass'n of the Nat'l Capital Area v. Allstate Ins. Co. of Canada, 275 F.3d 1145, 1150 (D.C.Cir.2002) (citing Eli Lilly & Co. v. Home Ins. Co., 764 F.2d 876, 882 (D.C.Cir. 1985)). "Only if such a conflict exists must the court then determine, pursuant to District of Columbia choice of law rules, which jurisdiction has the `more substantial interest' in the resolution of the issues." Id. In tort cases, the substantial interest inquiry requires consideration of (1) "the place where the injury occurred," (2) "the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred," (3) "the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties," and (4) "the place where the relationship" was centered. Herbert v. Dist. of Columbia, 808 A.2d 776, 779 (D.C.2002) (quoting RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF CONFLICT OF LAWS (1971), ? 145(2)).

Continuing on, the Court defined abuse of process under D.C. law:

Under District of Columbia law, abuse of process occurs when "process has been used to accomplish some end which is without the regular purview of the process, or which compels the party against whom it is used to do some collateral thing which he could not legally and regularly be required to do." Morowitz v. Marvel, 423 A.2d 196, 198 (D.C.1980) (quoting Jacobson v. Thrifty Paper Boxes, Inc., 230 A.2d 710, 711 (D.C.1967)). There are two essential elements to an abuse of process claim: "(1) the existence of an ulterior motive; and (2) an act in the use of process other than such as would be proper in the regular prosecution of the charge." Hall v. Hollywood Credit Clothing Co., 147 A.2d 866, 868 (D.C.1959) (emphasis in original).

In a footnote, the Court observed that the standards for abuse of process actions in D.C. were established by Brown v. Hamilton, 601 A.2d 1074, 1080 n. 14 (1992).

The Court agreed with the defendants' arguments, reasoning that there is no action for abuse of process when the process is used for the purpose for which it is intended, even though there is an incidental motive of spite or an ulterior purpose of benefit to the defendant.

By design, however, defamation claims, one of the claims in the Utah suit, are meant to silence individuals from making defamatory or otherwise harmful statements. Therefore, the Utah suit was used "for the purpose for which it is intended." See Rusakiewicz v. Lowe, 556 F.3d 1095, 1104 (10th Cir.2009)

The Court also noted that the plaintiff had failed ot make a colorable shoing that defendants committed a willful act in the use of the process other than such as would be proper in the regular prosecution of the charge.

John Treman May, Esq., of Jordan Coyne & Savits LLP, represents one of the defendants in this matter.

Posted by David B. Stratton on 01/06/2010 at 01:55 PM
District of ColumbiaPermalink