Grimes v. Dist. of Columbia, Bus. Decisions Info. Inc., No. 12–CV–0218.

Docket NºNo. 12–CV–0218.
Citation89 A.3d 107
Case DateApril 17, 2014
CourtCourt of Appeals of Columbia District

89 A.3d 107

Robert GRIMES, Appellant,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, BUSINESS DECISIONS INFORMATION INC., Welton Williams, Appellees.

No. 12–CV–0218.

District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Argued Dec. 4, 2013.
Decided April 17, 2014.


[89 A.3d 108]


Gregory L. Latimer, with whom Harold L. Levi was on the brief, for appellant.

Gregory M. Cumming, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Irvin B. Nathan, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Donna M. Murasky, Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee District of Columbia.


Aaron L. Handleman, with whom Justin M. Flint and Shannon Chaudhry, Hanover, MD, were on the brief, for appellees Business

[89 A.3d 109]

Decisions Information Inc. and Welton Williams.

Before GLICKMAN, BLACKBURNE–RIGSBY, and McLEESE, Associate Judges.


McLEESE, Associate Judge:

Appellant Robert Grimes seeks review of the Superior Court's dismissal of his claims against the District of Columbia, Business Decisions Information Inc. (“BDI”), and Welton Williams, BDI's Chief Operating Officer.1 Mr. Grimes's claims arise from the District's hiring of BDI to investigate Mr. Grimes after Mr. Grimes sought disability benefits. We affirm.

I.

In 1990, Mr. Grimes injured his back while working as a supervisory tax auditor for the District of Columbia Department of Finance and Revenue. Mr. Grimes filed a disability claim, which resulted in lengthy administrative proceedings. Mr. Grimes ultimately prevailed, and in 1998 the Employees Compensation Order Review Board awarded Mr. Grimes temporary total disability benefits.

The District's Officer of Risk Management terminated Mr. Grimes's disability benefits, based on evaluations conducted by independent medical examiners. Mr. Grimes challenged the termination of his benefits, and an ALJ entered a compensation order concluding that Mr. Grimes remained entitled to disability benefits.

The District refused to pay some of the benefits due to Mr. Grimes under the compensation order. In support of its refusal, the District relied upon a report from BDI, which the District had hired to investigate Mr. Grimes's employment history and income. According to Mr. Grimes, BDI's report falsely said that from 1998 to 2007, while he was receiving disability benefits, Mr. Grimes also operated “Grimes & Associates, CPAs,” where he earned income as an accountant. Mr. Grimes also asserts that the BDI report falsely accused him of earning income from real-estate investments and pursuing a personal-injury claim on behalf of his deceased father. Finally, Mr. Grimes states that the District and BDI published the report and its false information to other individuals “in the hope of generating other negative information.”

In 2010, Mr. Grimes filed a complaint in Superior Court alleging that the District and BDI had conspired to discredit Mr. Grimes and prevent him from receiving disability benefits. Specifically, Mr. Grimes alleged (1) violations of the Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act (“CMPA”), D.C.Code § 1–601.01 et seq. (2012 Repl.); (2) conspiracy to violate his constitutional rights; (3) retaliation; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”); and (5) civil conspiracy. BDI moved to dismiss Mr. Grimes's complaint for failure to state a claim under Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The District moved for judgment on the pleadings under Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

The trial court granted BDI's motion to dismiss and the District's motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, the court noted that Mr. Grimes had stipulated to a dismissal of the claim of conspiracy to violate his constitutional rights. Second, the court held that the CMPA foreclosed Mr. Grimes's remaining claims because Mr. Grimes had failed to plead administrative

[89 A.3d 110]

exhaustion. Third, the court found that Mr. Grimes had failed to state an IIED claim because Mr. Grimes had failed to plead facts showing “extreme and outrageous conduct” or “emotional distress.” Fourth, the court concluded that Mr. Grimes had failed to state a claim for civil conspiracy because Mr. Grimes had not adequately pleaded an underlying tort.

II.

Mr. Grimes makes two threshold arguments: (1) that the District's Rule 12(c) motion was premature and (2) that the trial court analyzed the District's Rule 12(c) motion and BDI's Rule 12(b)(6) motion under the wrong standard. We conclude that the trial court did not commit reversible error in considering the District's Rule 12(c) motion and applied the proper standard in ruling on the motions.

A.

Rule 12(c) states that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Generally, “Rule 12(c)'s condition that the pleadings be closed requires that an answer have been filed....” Iannucci v. Pearlstein, 629 A.2d 555, 558 (D.C.1993). Mr. Grimes argues that the pleadings had not closed at the time of the trial court's dismissal order, because BDI had not answered Mr. Grimes's amended complaint. Mr. Grimes relies on Iannucci, where we said that a plaintiff's Rule 12(c) motion was premature because the trial court had struck the defendant's answers. 629 A.2d at 558. But Iannucci is a single-defendant case, and Mr. Grimes sued multiple defendants (the District, BDI Inc., and Mr. Williams).

We have not directly addressed the question whether the pleadings are closed for purposes of a Rule 12(c) motion if the moving defendant has filed an answer but one or more other defendants have not. Courts from other jurisdictions are split on that question. Compare, e.g., Jung v. Association of Am. Med. Colls., 339 F.Supp.2d 26, 36 (D.D.C.2004) (considering Rule 12(c) motion under Rule 12(c) for defendants who answered and under Rule 12(b)(6) for defendants who had not), aff'd,184 Fed.Appx. 9 (D.C.Cir.2006), with, e.g., Watson v. County of Santa Clara, No. C–06–04029, 2007 WL 2043852, at *1 (N.D.Cal. July 12, 2007) (denying Rule 12(c) motion as premature because not all defendants had answered) (citing cases).

We need not decide whether the pleadings were closed for purposes of the District's Rule 12(c) motion. Under Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 61:

No error in ... anything done or omitted by the Court ... is ground for ... vacating, modifying or otherwise disturbing a judgment or order, unless refusal to take such action appears to the Court inconsistent with substantial justice. The Court at every stage of the proceeding must disregard any error or defect in the proceeding which does not affect the substantial rights of the parties.

See also11 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2884 (5th ed. 2012) (“Technical errors in pleading usually are treated as harmless and disregarded.”). Even if the trial court erred in considering the District's motion under Rule 12(c), we are satisfied that any error was harmless.


Although the District moved to dismiss Mr. Grimes's complaint under Rule 12(c), the same substantive relief would be available under Rule 12(b)(6). See, e.g., District of Columbia v. Beretta, U.S.A., Corp., 872 A.2d 633, 639 (D.C.2005) (en banc) (same standard applies to motion to dismiss

[89 A.3d 111]

for failure to state claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and motion for judgment on pleadings under Rule 12(c)). Mr. Grimes has failed to show how the trial court's judgment would have been different had the court reviewed the District's motion under Rule 12(b)(6). Cf., e.g., Jung, 339 F.Supp.2d at 35–36 (“No prejudice to any party results from treating a Rule 12(c) motion as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion because the standard of review for motions for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) ... is essentially the same as that for motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).”); Seber v. Unger, 881 F.Supp. 323, 325 n. 2 (N.D.Ill.1995) (construing Rule 12(c) motion as Rule 12(b)(6) motion “[b]ecause [Rule 12(c)] motion essentially serves the same purpose as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion”). In sum, even if the District's Rule 12(c) motion was premature, any error in considering the motion under Rule 12(c) rather than Rule 12(b)(6) was harmless.

B.

Mr. Grimes also argues that the trial court should have considered the District's Rule 12(c) motion and BDI's Rule 12(b)(6) motion as motions for summary judgment under Superior Court Rule of Civil Procedure 56, because discovery had closed and because the District and BDI had filed motions for summary judgment with supporting materials. We disagree.

Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(c) provide that if “matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the Court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56....” A trial court is not required to convert a Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 12(c) motion into a motion for summary judgment, however, as long as the court does not consider matters outside the pleadings. See, e.g., In re Estate of Barfield, 736 A.2d 991, 995 (D.C.1999) (affirming trial court's grant of Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, because court did not consider matters outside the pleadings); Harper v. Lawrence Cnty., Ala., 592 F.3d 1227, 1232 (11th Cir.2010) (“A judge need not...

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  • Hampton v. Comey, Civil Action No. 14-cv-1607 (ABJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 8, 2016
    ...for abuse of process, and he also has not stated a claim for conspiracy to abuse process, see Grimes v. D.C. Bus. Decisions Info. Inc., 89 A.3d 107, 115 (D.C. 2014) ("Civil conspiracy is not an independent tort but only a means for establishing vicarious liability for an underlying tort."),......
  • Precision Contracting Solutions, LP v. ANGI Homeservices, Inc., Civil Action No. 19-2748 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • November 19, 2019
    ...479 (D.C. Cir.1983) ), and no tort claim has been plausibly pled, see, e.g. , Grimes v. Dist. of Columbia, Bus. Decisions Info., Inc. , 89 A.3d 107, 115 (D.C. 2014) (upholding dismissal of a complaint on this ground). The complaint pleads that defendants conspired to "to blacken the reputat......
  • Boyd v. Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Nos. 15–CV–0692 & 15–CV–1043
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • July 20, 2017
    ...as one for summary judgment." Equal Rights Ctr. v. Props. Int'l , 110 A.3d 599, 603 (D.C. 2015) (citing Grimes v. District of Columbia , 89 A.3d 107, 111 (D.C. 2014) ). "[A] complaint must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face’ " such that the court ma......
  • Doe v. Lee, No. 19-cv-0085 (DLF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 14, 2020
    ...[her]; and (3) that a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse action." Grimes v. District of Columbia, 89 A.3d 107, 112 (D.C. 2014); see also Hamilton v. Geithner, 666 F.3d 1344, 1357 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (reciting the same elements for a Title-VII retaliation cl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • Hampton v. Comey, Civil Action No. 14-cv-1607 (ABJ)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 8, 2016
    ...for abuse of process, and he also has not stated a claim for conspiracy to abuse process, see Grimes v. D.C. Bus. Decisions Info. Inc., 89 A.3d 107, 115 (D.C. 2014) ("Civil conspiracy is not an independent tort but only a means for establishing vicarious liability for an underlying tort."),......
  • Precision Contracting Solutions, LP v. ANGI Homeservices, Inc., Civil Action No. 19-2748 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • November 19, 2019
    ...479 (D.C. Cir.1983) ), and no tort claim has been plausibly pled, see, e.g. , Grimes v. Dist. of Columbia, Bus. Decisions Info., Inc. , 89 A.3d 107, 115 (D.C. 2014) (upholding dismissal of a complaint on this ground). The complaint pleads that defendants conspired to "to blacken the reputat......
  • Boyd v. Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Nos. 15–CV–0692 & 15–CV–1043
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • July 20, 2017
    ...as one for summary judgment." Equal Rights Ctr. v. Props. Int'l , 110 A.3d 599, 603 (D.C. 2015) (citing Grimes v. District of Columbia , 89 A.3d 107, 111 (D.C. 2014) ). "[A] complaint must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face’ " such that the court ma......
  • Doe v. Lee, No. 19-cv-0085 (DLF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 14, 2020
    ...[her]; and (3) that a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse action." Grimes v. District of Columbia, 89 A.3d 107, 112 (D.C. 2014); see also Hamilton v. Geithner, 666 F.3d 1344, 1357 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (reciting the same elements for a Title-VII retaliation cl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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