I am not a lawyer so please correct any terminology I have used incorrectly.

What is the jurisdiction of the decision made in Warren v. District of Columbia? I.e. supposing the events that led to this court case were to occur again but in a different district, would the decision made by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals also apply in that other district?

  • As far as I know, the geographical extent of the lowest court in DC is the same as that of the highest court, so there is no "other district", unlike the case with states. There are subject-matter jurisdiction divisions.
    – user6726
    Jun 22, 2020 at 19:21
  • @user6726 are you sure you're not getting confused with "U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit"? Jul 2, 2020 at 1:13
  • Not 100%, but there is only one political entity, i.e. no distinct towns or counties, and no sign of there being geographical divisions at dccourts.gov.
    – user6726
    Jul 2, 2020 at 1:45

1 Answer 1


Generally speaking, a decision from the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is binding only in the District of Columbia. Courts of other jurisdictions are not required to adhere to its decisions.

If the issue came up again in Virginia or Maryland, courts there would have no obligation to follow it. Virginia tort law is different from D.C. tort law, so Virginia courts would need to determine whether their law is different on this particular point.

  • Cheers. What would be the likelihood of other courts coming to the same decision? Should I ask this in a new question or update my question here? Jun 20, 2020 at 8:00
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    All the states (and D.C.) come from the same common law tradition, so there's generally going to be a lot of overlap. The DC decision seems generally in line with the basic tort principle that there needs to be some meaningful relationship between two parties before one has the duty to take affirmative acts to protect the other from third parties. I don't know of any jurisdiction that has reached a different outcome.
    – bdb484
    Jun 20, 2020 at 23:58
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    Just a note for others reading / FYI, the "Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia" (D.C. Ct. of Ap.) is different from the "U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit" (D.C. Cir.). The former is the "state" "supreme" court, the latter is the federal circuit court.
    – Andrew
    Jun 22, 2020 at 18:34
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    @bdb484 Louisiana is an exception. Its law comes from French civil law. Because of its incorporation in the US, its legal system has some common law aspects, however.
    – phoog
    Jun 22, 2020 at 18:43
  • @phoog That's right; good correction. My understanding is that Louisiana also generally adheres to tort law principles as laid out in the Restatement, which would further align its law with the rest of the country's.
    – bdb484
    Jun 25, 2020 at 23:33

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