Smith v. Hope Village, Inc.

Decision Date12 April 2007
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 05-633 (RBW).
Citation481 F.Supp.2d 172
PartiesCarol SMITH, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Erika Smith, Plaintiff, v. HOPE VILLAGE, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Stuart H. Newberger, Aryeh S. Portnoy, John L. Murino, Laurel Pyke Malson, Crowell & Moring LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Craig Stephen Brodsky, Goodell, Devries, Leech & Dann, LLP, Baltimore, MD, Donald M. Temple, Dhamian A. Blue, Temple Law Office, Washington, DC, George Samuel Mahaffey, Jr., Goodell, Devries, Leech & Dann, LLP, Baltimore, MD, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WALTON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Carol Smith brings this action against Hope Village, Inc. ("the defendant" or "Hope Village"), a privately-operated facility that "provide[s] halfway house services to offenders in the District of Columbia," for compensatory and punitive damages arising from the murder of her daughter, Erika Smith, by Anthony Kelly, a convicted felon and former Hope Village resident. Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 7. On July 26, 2006, the Court granted the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings as to Count II of the complaint, the plaintiff's wrongful death claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Procedure 12(c). Order at 6. Currently before the Court is the defendant's motion ("Def.'s Mot ")1 for judgment on the pleadings, or in the alternative for summary judgment, on the plaintiffs remaining claim, a survival action filed on behalf of her daughter's estate. Def.'s Mot. at 1. Also before the Court is the plaintiffs motion ("Pl.'s Mot.") to alter or amend judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), which asks the Court to reconsider its July 26, 2006 Order dismissing the plaintiffs wrongful death claim. Pl.'s Mot. at 1. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings or in the alternative for summary judgment and grants the plaintiffs motion to alter or amend judgment.

I. Background

The plaintiff alleges the following facts in support of her complaint.2 In August 1996, Anthony Quentin Kelly was convicted "for pointing a loaded gun at the head of a woman, threatening to kill her and her husband, and driving a stolen car," Pl.'s Opp. at 4; see also Compl. ¶ 8; Pl.'s Opp., Exhibit ("Ex.") 3 (Presentence Report for Anthony Kelly) ("Presentence Report") at 2, and sentenced to a ten year and six month term of incarceration in federal prison, Pl.'s Opp. at 4. Kelly is a repeat offender with a long and checkered criminal history, including an arrest for escaping from a halfway house, an indictment for making felony threats, and multiple prior convictions for, inter alia, burglary and the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.3 Pl.'s. Opp. at 5; see also Presentence Report at 3-6 (detailing Kelly's criminal record); Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 8 (January 28, 2003 memorandum from Assistant United States Attorney Michael Britton to attorney John McCarthy) ("Britton Memo") at 2-3 (summarizing Kelly's criminal record and stating that "[h]e has been convicted of thirteen crimes[,] eleven felonies and two misdemeanors[,] ... which stem from six separate criminal cases"); Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 9 (Affidavit of Dr. Mario Paparozzi, Ph.D.) ("Paparozzi Aff.") ¶ 50 (stating that "[t]he record shows that Anthony Kelly was a known violent criminal offender who frequently engaged in theft, burglaries, and other property crimes, as well as violent crime, including with a loaded gun"); Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 25 (June 27, 2001 decision of United States Parole Commission) ("Parole Decision") at 1 (noting Kelly's prior convictions)4 On December 12, 2001, after serving approximately five years of his sentence, Kelly was transferred from prison to Hope Village, a halfway house located in the District of Columbia. Compl. ¶ 9; Def.'s Mem. at 3; Pl.'s Opp. at 4.

Hope Village is a private facility that contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), among other entities, to provide transitional services and housing to various correctional populations, including felons such as Kelly who have been convicted of violent crimes. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 10; see also Pl.'s Opp. at 4 (stating that "[Hope Village] is a private, for-profit, community-based correctional facility ... responsible for supervising criminal offenders while it was determined whether they would be released on parole"); Paparozzi Aff. ¶ 16 (stating that "halfway houses are required to provide correctional and paroling authorities with the information necessary to make determinations regarding release or reincarceration by closely watching and reporting how inmates adjust as the restraints and degree of supervision of prison confinement are lessened"). According to the plaintiff, "[t]he purpose of programs like [Hope Village] [is] to provide an opportunity for offenders to demonstrate, while under constant scrutiny, that they might safely be returned to the community ... without reasonable fear for the safety of local citizens." Pl.'s Opp. at 9; see also Pl.'s Opp., Ex. 6 (BOP January 2000 Comprehensive Sanctions Center Statement of Work) ("SOW") at 0 (stating that "[t]he mission of [facilities such as Hope Village] is to protect society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of ... community-based facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient[,] and appropriately secure, [while] provid[ing] work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens"); Paparozzi Aff. ¶ 16 (stating that "[t]he primary mission of ... private correctional organizations[] like Hope Village ... is to ensure public safety while safely transitioning inmates from incarceration back to their communities, or returning inmates to prison when they are not fit for community release"). In order to accomplish these goals, halfway houses such as Hope Village are required, upon the admission of each resident, to "review available documents[] [such as] Judgment/Commitment Order[s] from the sentencing [c]ourt[s], criminal records, [and] presentence investigation reports[] for any indication that an offender has a history of ... violent or escape behavior." SOW at 36; see also Pl.'s Opp. at 8; Paparozzi Aff. ¶ 26 (stating that halfway houses must "take into account the specific history and characteristics of each individual inmate in order to provide adequate supervision and monitoring, and to protect the community from foreseeable conduct"). While at Hope Village, Kelly remained an inmate under the care and custody, if not the direct supervision, of the BOP. Paparozzi Aff. ¶ 19 (stating that "Anthony Kelly was an inmate under the care and custody of the [BOP] when he was serving his sentence at Hope Village"); see also SOW at 0 (stating that facilities such as Hope Village "provide[] comprehensive community-based services for offenders ... who are in the custody of the BOP, United States Attorney General, or under...the supervision of the United States Probation Office"); Paparozzi Aff. ¶ 17 (stating that "[i]nmates placed in halfway houses are still under the custody of the prison system governing the jurisdiction of their sentence").

Kelly resided at Hope Village from December 2001 until March 2002. Def.'s Mem. at 3; Pl.'s Opp. at 5. During this four-month period, the plaintiff alleges (1) that Hope Village was negligent in its supervision of Kelly, "failing to review or take into account [his] history of violence and escape," Pl.'s Opp. at 8, and overlooking or disregarding his numerous violations of the conditions of his confinement there; and (2) that through this negligence and inaction, Hope Village was ultimately responsible for Kelly's improper and untimely release into the community, where he was free to commit violent criminal acts. Id. at 5-19; Compl. ¶¶ 10-12. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that during Kelly's tenure at Hope Village, he "openly violated the terms of his conditional release to [Hope Village] by failing to secure employment as required, submitting to [Hope Village] facially false (and inadequate) documentation to facilitate his release to the community, and spending his days of `confinement' roaming the community freely, committing acts of crime." Pl.'s Opp. at 5; see also Compl. ¶¶ 10-12. The plaintiff asserts that although these violations were known or should reasonably have been known by Hope Village, the facility "never disciplined Kelly, never reported his actions to the appropriate federal agencies, and never recommended his return to federal custody for violating the conditions of his release to the halfway house." Pl.'s Opp. at 6 (emphases omitted); see id. at 8 (alleging that Hope Village "failed to review or take account of Kelly's history of violence and escape ... [or] report to the government significant verifiable facts regarding Kelly's noncompliance with employment and payment obligations"); see also Paparozzi Aff. ¶ 19 (opining that "had Hope Village reported Kelly's violations [to the BOP] when they occurred ... Kelly would have been returned to prison and his parole date rescinded"). The plaintiff also contends that Hope Village negligently contributed to Kelly's parole when it, inter alia, "knowingly submitted erroneous documentation to the government that Kelly had met all conditions for release ... execut[ed] the documentation which permitted Kelly to be released[,] ... [and] recommend[ed] to federal authorities that Kelly be released to the community." Pl.'s Opp. at 6. Finally, the plaintiff alleges that Hope Village failed, in a manner that amounts to massive and large-scale institutional indifference and incompetence, to provide basic levels of facility security and resident oversight or to otherwise "exercise reasonable care to ensure that its residents did not, as a result of [Hope Village's] own action or inaction, cause harm to innocent members of the...

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