Sunday, November 10, 2013

District of Columbia v. Hampton case brief

District of Columbia v. Hampton case brief summary
666 A.2d 30 (1995)

Appellant, District of Columbia, challenged the decision from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which denied the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict in the negligence suit by appellee mother for the death of her child. The trial court had entered judgment for the mother. The District of Columbia alleged a failure to use expert testimony and that it could not be held liable under a respondeat superior theory.

The mother's child was placed in foster care. The child died after the foster mother's children beat her. The mother contended that the District of Columbia was negligent in choosing and overseeing the foster mother and was liable under an agency theory.


  • On appeal, the court found that the trial court should have granted the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. 
  • The mother should have offered expert testimony to prove the standard of care. 
  • This action did not fall within the common knowledge exception to the rule. 
  • Since the standard was not proven, a deviation could not be proven as well. 
  • The foster mother was an independent contractor rather than an agent, and thus, liability could not be based on respondeat superior. 
  • This followed the general trend that foster parents were not agents or employees of a state social service agency. 
  • The most important factor, the authority to control the agent, was missing. 
  • The right to inspect the home and set overall standards did not give the District of Columbia actual control over the foster mother.

The judgment of the trial court in favor of the mother was reversed. The motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict should have been granted. The mother failed to prove the standard of care by expert testimony. The District of Columbia was not liable under a respondeat theory.

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