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Parham v. CIH Properties, Inc., et al.

August 5, 2020

A tenant filed suit for property damage arising from a leak in her apartment closet.  After a trial before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, the court concluded that while the tenant had proved the liability portion of her case, the tenant had failed to prove actual damages. 
The tenant sought to recover a monetary award for property damaged in her closet.  The property ranged from mink coats, to designer bags, to lace dresses.  At trial, the purchase and estimated values for the tenant’s personal property was supported solely by the tenant’s own recollection.  The tenant did not reference or introduce into evidence any receipts or appraisals for any of the items damaged. 
The court found that the tenant failed to prove her actual damages.  The court noted that for ordinary items the law “does not require the plaintiff to prove the measure of damages with meticulous precision as long as the plaintiff proves the fact of damage and provides a ‘reasonable basis for approximation’ of the items’ value.”  However, for “unique, designer items such as a mink coat, the owner’s testimony alone will not suffice to prove the fair market value of the destroyed item.”  Expert testimony is needed for such unique items in order to prove the value of such an item at the time it was lost.
The court did award the tenant a nominal award of $1.00 for her claims of breach of the implied warrant of habitability.