Stone v. Landis Constr. Co., No. 14–CV–1017.

Docket NºNo. 14–CV–1017.
Citation120 A.3d 1287
Case DateJuly 23, 2015
CourtCourt of Appeals of Columbia District

120 A.3d 1287

Alfred L. STONE, Appellant
v.
LANDIS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., et al., Appellees.

No. 14–CV–1017.

District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Argued June 23, 2015.
Decided July 23, 2015.


120 A.3d 1288

Alfred L. Stone, pro se.

Lily A. Graves, with whom Albert Wilson, Jr., Washington, DC, was on the brief, for appellee Daniel Cavell.

Joel P. Bennett filed a brief for appellees Landis Construction, Ethan Landis, and Nannette Frost.

Before BLACKBURNE–RIGSBY and EASTERLY, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.

Opinion

STEADMAN, Senior Judge:

Responding to an advertisement seeking to hire a master plumber, appellant Alfred L. Stone interviewed for a position with Landis Construction Company, Inc. (“Landis”), and was turned down. During the course of subsequent litigation, in which Stone unsuccessfully pursued race and age discrimination claims,1 Stone learned that Landis had subsequently hired an unlicensed white plumber and had allegedly provided plumbing services for a number of years without proper licensing. He then filed suit against Landis, (as well as its CEO and two employees), alleging violations of the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act (“CPPA”), D.C.Code §§ 28–3901 to –3913 (2012 & 2015 Supp.).2 Proceeding pro se both below and on appeal, he now appeals the trial court's dismissal of his case for lack of standing under the CPPA.3 Although we find that Stone has standing,

120 A.3d 1289

we conclude that he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and thus affirm.

“Standing is a threshold jurisdictional question which must be addressed prior to and independent of the merits of a party's claims.” Grayson v. AT & T Corp., 15 A.3d 219, 229 (D.C.2011). “[A] lawsuit under the CPPA does not relieve a plaintiff of the requirement to show a concrete injury-in-fact to himself.” Id. at 244. As we understand Stone's argument, he asserts injury resulting from his job rejection and Landis's use of unlicensed plumbers, both of which adversely affected his employment situation.4 When a plaintiff alleges injury to statutorily-conferred rights, we do not look ahead to the merits of whether the alleged statutory right actually exists, but only inquire whether the plaintiff has alleged an injury potentially covered by the statute at issue. Id. at 231. Because Stone has alleged that his loss of potential employment constitutes an injury-in-fact under the CPPA, we conclude, pursuant to Grayson, that Stone has standing to assert his claim.5

However, “dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate where the complaint fails to allege the elements of a legally viable claim.” Chamberlain v. Am. Honda Fin. Corp., 931 A.2d 1018, 1023 (D.C.2007). Although Stone has standing to assert his interpretation of the CPPA, the existence of the statutory rights he seeks to vindicate is a distinct question. Grayson, supra, 15 A.3d at 252. We thus consider whether the legislature intended by its statutory language to include the employment relationship within the protection of the CPPA.6

“[T]he CPPA was designed to police trade practices arising only out of consumer-merchant relationships, and does not apply to commercial dealings outside the consumer sphere.” Ford v. ChartOne, Inc., 908 A.2d 72, 81 (D.C.2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). When used as a noun, “consumer” means “a person who, other than for

120 A.3d 1290

purposes of resale, does or would purchase, lease (as lessee), or receive consumer goods or services ... or does or would otherwise provide the economic demand for a trade practice.” D.C.Code § 28–3901(a)(2)(A) (2015 Supp.).7 A “trade practice,” in turn, is “any act ... [involving] ... a sale, lease or transfer, of consumer goods or services.” D.C.Code § 28–3901(a)(6) (2015 Supp.). When used as an adjective, “consumer” describes anything that (as relevant here) “[a] person does or would purchase, lease (as lessee), or receive and normally use for personal, household, or family purposes.” D.C.Code § 28–3901(a)(2)(B)(i) (2015 Supp.). Finally, “ ‘goods and services' means any and all parts of the economic output of society, ... and includes consumer credit, franchises, business opportunities, real estate transactions, and consumer services of all types.”D.C.Code § 28–3901(a)(7) (2015 Supp.).

Thus, Stone's “consumer” status at bottom turns on whether he provided “economic demand” for “consumer goods and services.” To so hold would involve the contortion of normal language. Stone wanted to provide plumbing services through his employment—not receive them. Nobody uses the term ‘consumer employment.’ Employment, properly understood, is not used “for personal, household, or family purposes.” Employment creates the economic outputs that consumers demand, rewarding employees with payment for their labor. Employees then enter the marketplace as consumers, and spend the money they earned on goods and services that they put to “personal, household or family” use. See Manning v. Zuckerman, 388 Mass. 8, 444 N.E.2d 1262, 1265 (1983) (“An employee and an employer are not engaged in trade or commerce with each other.”); Donovan v. Digital Equip. Corp., 883 F.Supp. 775, 787 (D.N.H.1994) (“plaintiff's lengthy relationship with the defendant did not involve the genre of marketplace or consumer transactions actionable even under an expansive reading of the [New Hampshire Consumer Protection] Act. Rather, this was, in form and essence, an employment relationship.”).

Nor indeed does employment naturally fall even within the definition of “goods and services.” Employment produces goods and services. It is not “the economic output of society,” but rather one of the relationships within that society, whereby economic output is produced. Se...

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8 practice notes
  • Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp., 19-CV-0397
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • September 2, 2021
    ...holding that the CPPA does not modify Article III requirements, even after the 2012 amendments, citing Stone v. Landis Construction Co. , 120 A.3d 1287, 1289 (D.C. 2015), Little v. Suntrust Bank , 204 A.3d 1272, 1275 (D.C. 2019), and Floyd v. Bank of America Corp. , 70 A.3d 246, 251 (D.C. 2......
  • Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp., 19-CV-0397
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • September 2, 2021
    ...holding that the CPPA does not modify Article III requirements, even after the 2012 amendments, citing Stone v. Landis Construction Co., 120 A.3d 1287, 1289 (D.C. 2015), Little v. Suntrust Bank, 204 A.3d 1272, 1275 (D.C. 2019), and Floyd v. Bank of America Corp., 70 A.3d 246, 251 (D.C. 2013......
  • Hawthorne v. Rushmore Loan Mgmt. Servs., Civil Action 20-393 (RDM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2021
    ...with a long line of precedent from the D.C. Court of Appeals, the D.C. Circuit, and this Court. See, e.g., Stone v. Landis Constr. Co., 120 A.3d 1287, 1290 (D.C. 2015); Shaw, 605 F.3d at 1043; Ford v. ChartOne, Inc., 908 A.2d 72, 81 (D.C. 2006); Edwards v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 24 F.Su......
  • Bartel v. Bank of Am. Corp., No. 14–CV–1069.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • December 24, 2015
    ...construction—I think the more pertinent case authority can be found in this court's recent decision in Stone v. Landis Constr. Co., 120 A.3d 1287 (D.C.2015) :In the absence of procedural unfairness, we may affirm a judgment on any valid ground, even if that ground was not relied upon by the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp., 19-CV-0397
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • September 2, 2021
    ...holding that the CPPA does not modify Article III requirements, even after the 2012 amendments, citing Stone v. Landis Construction Co. , 120 A.3d 1287, 1289 (D.C. 2015), Little v. Suntrust Bank , 204 A.3d 1272, 1275 (D.C. 2019), and Floyd v. Bank of America Corp. , 70 A.3d 246, 251 (D.C. 2......
  • Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp., 19-CV-0397
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • September 2, 2021
    ...holding that the CPPA does not modify Article III requirements, even after the 2012 amendments, citing Stone v. Landis Construction Co., 120 A.3d 1287, 1289 (D.C. 2015), Little v. Suntrust Bank, 204 A.3d 1272, 1275 (D.C. 2019), and Floyd v. Bank of America Corp., 70 A.3d 246, 251 (D.C. 2013......
  • Hawthorne v. Rushmore Loan Mgmt. Servs., Civil Action 20-393 (RDM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • August 30, 2021
    ...with a long line of precedent from the D.C. Court of Appeals, the D.C. Circuit, and this Court. See, e.g., Stone v. Landis Constr. Co., 120 A.3d 1287, 1290 (D.C. 2015); Shaw, 605 F.3d at 1043; Ford v. ChartOne, Inc., 908 A.2d 72, 81 (D.C. 2006); Edwards v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 24 F.Su......
  • Bartel v. Bank of Am. Corp., No. 14–CV–1069.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • December 24, 2015
    ...construction—I think the more pertinent case authority can be found in this court's recent decision in Stone v. Landis Constr. Co., 120 A.3d 1287 (D.C.2015) :In the absence of procedural unfairness, we may affirm a judgment on any valid ground, even if that ground was not relied upon by the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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