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Folks v. District of Columbia

August 5, 2020

A District of Columbia police officer arrested the Plaintiff, restrained him with handcuffs, and transported him in his police cruiser (but did not restrain the Plaintiff with a seatbelt). When operating the police vehicle, the officer applied his brakes suddenly, and the force of the stop threw the Plaintiff into the partition, which separates the rear seat from the driver. The Plaintiff alleged he sustained serious injuries to his head, neck, and lower back.

The Plaintiff did not designate experts prior to the close of discovery. After the close of discovery, the District of Columbia moved for summary judgment arguing that the Plaintiff lacked sufficient evidence to establish that the sudden stop was the medical cause of his injuries. The Plaintiff submitted his own affidavit attesting that the stop caused the immediate onset of his complaints and also submitted medical records from his treating physicians. The impression of the health care providers was that the incident either caused or exacerbated the Plaintiff’s alleged injuries.

The District of Columbia Superior Court granted the motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed, noting that the statements set forth in the medical records, and the Plaintiff’s own affidavit, were sufficient to create an inference that the incident was a cause of the Plaintiff’s medical complaints. The Court of Appeals was not troubled by the District’s contention that the Plaintiff failed to identify experts (even if the testimony regarding causation would have required them to review records they did not review during the course of their treatment).