Court of Appeals Holds Trial Court Erred by Treating Motion for Reconsideration of Denial of Summary Judgment as Conceded Notwithstanding that Plaintiff Failed to File an Opposition
On December 8, 2011, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals decided Crawford v. Katz, No. 09-CV-301, slip op. (D.C. Dec. 8, 2011), a legal malpractice case in which the trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims. Id. at 1-2. The principal issues on appeal were whether the plaintiff’s expert testimony was sufficient to support his legal malpractice claims and whether the plaintiff had actionable conflict of interest claims. Id. at 14-30. The Court of Appeals also considered an issue of civil procedure which is the subject of this case note; specifically, whether the trial court erred by treating certain of the plaintiff’s claims as conceded where the plaintiff failed to file an opposition to a motion for reconsideration of an order denying summary judgment. Id. at 30-31. The motion for reconsideration was filed pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12-I which provides, in relevant part, that a motion filed pursuant to that rule may be treated as conceded if an opposition to the motion is not timely filed. Id. at 30-31 (citing Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12-I(e)). The Court of Appeals held that, notwithstanding the aforementioned rule, the trial court erred by treating the motion for reconsideration as conceded. Id. at 31. It stated that it has previously recognized that “in the case of motions for summary judgment, the trial court may not ‘treat the motion as automatically conceded, given the requirement of Rule 56(c) that the court itself must examine the record to confirm that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant, on the basis of the undisputed material facts, is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Id. at 31 (quoting Kurth v. Dobricky, 487 A.2d 220, 224 (D.C. 1985)). It further stated that “this reasoning applies equally to motions for reconsideration of the denial of summary judgment.” Id. The trial court was therefore required to consider the merits of the plaintiff’s claims notwithstanding that the plaintiff failed to file an opposition to the motion for reconsideration. Id. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment on reconsideration and remanded the case for further proceedings. To view the Court of Appeals’ opinion, click here.