Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Conyers v. Dept of the Army (Maryland U.S.D.C.)(not approved for publication)

Filed January 16, 2007 –Opinion by Judge J. Frederick Motz (not approved for publication)

In an action arising from an accident in 2002, in which Plaintiff Conyers was severely burned while cooking dinner in the Army housing assigned to his family, the Plaintiff asserted a negligence claim against the United States. The United States moved to dismiss, based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.

The Court noted that the Defendant may have had knowledge of a potentially dangerous condition (the absence of a fire extinguisher) and it was at least arguably foreseeable that the lack of an available fire extinguisher in the apartment would make the consequences of a cooking fire more serious. The Court found lacking, however, any allegation that Defendant retained control over the apartment in which Plaintiff and his wife lived. Thus the Court found no basis under Maryland law for a finding that Defendant owed any duty to Plaintiff to provide him with a fire extinguisher. Having found that Defendant owed no duty to Plaintiff, the Court held that the Plaintiff's claim therefore failed as a matter of law.

In a footnote, the Court thanked the attorney it had appointed, James S. Zavakos, for the highly professional services he rendered to the Plaintiff and to the court. Although the Plaintiff originally instituted this action pro se, the Court appointed Mr. Zavakos to represent the Plaintiff because of the extremely unfortunate nature of the accident, the extent of the injuries the Plaintiff sustained, and the closeness of the legal issues.

The full opinion is available in PDF. The order appears here.

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