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Doe v. Dominion Bank of Washington

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
963 F.2d 1552 (1992)


Facts

Jane Doe (plaintiff) worked in an office located at 1430 K Street, a commercial building with offices leased to several companies. Dominion Bank (Bank) (defendant) held the master lease to the building. Beginning in February 1989, the Bank began to let its leases on office space expire in light of a contract to sell the property. By May 1989, five floors of the building were vacant. On the morning of May 24, 1989, Doe was alone in her office. While taking the elevator to the lobby, the elevator stopped at one of the vacant floors. A man entered and dragged Doe into a vacant office, where he raped and robbed her. Doe subsequently brought a tort action against the Bank, alleging that the Bank had a duty to take reasonable measures to keep the tenants safe from criminal conduct and that the Bank had failed to do so. At trial, Doe presented evidence regarding the building conditions, safety measures taken by the Bank, and criminal activity that had occurred in the building in recent years. This included evidence of the theft of personal and business property, drug use, and sexual activity in the building, as well as tenant complaints about intruders and inadequate security. One tenant had recently alerted building management to the repeated presence of a threatening intruder and requested heightened security on multiple occasions. Another tenant reported that its office had been burglarized. That same tenant reported an intruder in the building a week before Doe’s rape. Doe also presented a qualified expert witness, Anthony Potter. Potter noted that the security at 1430 K Street did not comply with acceptable standards of commercial building security, particularly because the building’s vacant spaces, floors, and offices were not secured or blocked off. The Bank moved for a directed verdict. The district court granted the motion, finding that, although Doe adequately established the applicable standard of care, she failed to establish the rape was reasonably foreseeable.

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Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)

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Concurrence (Williams, J.)

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