Law Office of Daniel S. Kozma
2120 L. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
I provide first-rate litigation services, in both trial and appellate courts, and top quality legal counsel to those I represent. I have a reputation as a successful trial lawyer and I am well known and respected in the legal community.
I work closely with those I represent, to achieve the best possible outcome. I am a committed, experienced lawyer and I take my responsibilities seriously, knowing that the results I achieve for those I represent may have a lasting impact on their lives.
I have considerable experience and particular expertise in Employment Law, including race, sex and other forms of unlawful discrimination and unlawful harassment; Employee Benefits, including pension, health insurance and disability benefits disputes; Wrongful Termination; Disputes involving denial of tenure and revocation of tenure; Labor Law, including Arbitrations and Airline Labor Law; Personal Injury claims of all kinds, especially lead poisoning in children and in the workplace, and other Toxic Torts; Professional Malpractice.
- Employment Law
- Employment Discrimination (race, sex, age, etc.)
- Sexual and Other Harassment/Hostile Work Environment
- Employee Benefits Law (401K’s, pension, health, disability and life insurance, etc.)
- Tenure disputes in the University setting, including denial of tenure and revocation of tenure or dismissal
- Labor Law, Grievances, Arbitrations
- Airline Labor Law, Grievances, System Board of Adjustment Arbitrations
- Lead and Lead Paint Poisoning cases
- Professional Malpractice
- Defamation and other Intentional Torts
- Litigation, Trials & Appeals
Over the last several years or so, I have had a number of successes that are worth mentioning.
- Jury Verdict for $582,400 against Howard University affirmed for a Professor Denied Tenure.
On February 23, 2012, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the highest Court in the District of Columbia, affirmed a jury verdict for $582,400.00 in favor of my client, Professor Sybil Roberts-Williams for Howard University’s breach of contract in not providing her required written evaluations of her performance and progress towards tenure during more than ten years teaching as a Professor at Howard University.
I tried the case to a jury in a six day jury trial which ended with a judgment in favor of Ms. Roberts-Williams on October 1, 2010. Howard University appealed but its appeal was denied and the jury verdict and judgment were affirmed. Howard University v. Roberts-Williams, 37 A.3d 896 (DC Court of Appeals, 2012). A copy of the decision can also be found here: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=Roberts-Williams+v.+Howard+University&hl=en&as_sdt=2,5&case=5909255175812180198&scilh=0
- Successfully Defended a Professor Against Charges to Revoke his Tenure.
Recently, I represented a Professor who had been tenured for twenty years against charges brought against him by the university’s administration to revoke his tenure and dismiss him from the university. Because of the required confidentiality of the proceedings, I cannot identify either the professor or his university, except to say that it is a major and well known university in the area. The university was represented by one of the largest law firms in DC.
Under the Faculty Handbook, which is part of the contract of every faculty member, the first step in such a proceeding is a hearing before a committee comprised of six faculty members from departments other than the charged faculty member’s department. Four of the six members must recommend that tenure be revoked. If four members of the committee do not recommend revocation of tenure, that is the end of the matter, and the professor retains his tenured position on the faculty.
The charges against the professor claimed that he had committed serious violations of “scholarly integrity” and had demonstrated neglect of his professional responsibilities. In mid 2012, several days of hearings were held before the hearing committee. The university called eight witnesses and introduced over sixty exhibits during the hearing. On behalf of the professor, we introduced over forty exhibits. At the conclusion of the hearing, the university’s lawyers filed over eighty pages of proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. On behalf of the professor, my submission was eighteen pages. In October, 2012, we received the faculty Committee’s unanimous decision, in which it rejected the university’s charges against my client.
We won! The Faculty Committee issued its unanimous decision.
- Settlement and Severance Package.
Recently, I represented a woman who had been employed for thirty years in a non-profit organization. She is a lawyer and had risen to become a Vice President, the only woman Vice President in the organization’s history. A new go-getter President had come in and wanted to fire her. The organization offered her six months’ severance and that was about it. My client was, at the time, in her late 50’s and earning over 200K a year.
Although my client didn’t want to sue, we threatened age and sex discrimination claims and negotiated a better severance package. We ended with a full year’s severance, and the settlement agreement also included an additional full year of credit under the defined benefit retirement plan. The total package meant an additional 200K to my client. The organization also agreed to allow us to write a letter of recommendation which it was required to provide to prospective employers.
But here’s the best part. One of my client’s duties was running the organization’s largest and most important interest group. When the members of my client’s interest group found out that my client was leaving, they raised Hell with the new President. He came crawling back and asked my client to stay, with the title of Vice President. She agreed but, at my suggestion, on one condition. During the next year, if she decided to leave, or if she was again fired, the severance package would take effect, giving her a full year of severance from the date she quit or was fired, a full year of credit under the defined benefit plan from that same date, and all of the other provisions we had negotiated in the settlement agreement.
That meant my client was fully protected, and that the new President had to treat her well to make sure she stayed and to keep the organization’s members in my client’s interest group happy. If the new President didn’t keep my client happy after her return, she could walk out at any time fully protected by the severance package I had negotiated for her!
- Settlement of a Case Claiming Sexual Preference Discrimination by a Bisexual Woman.
I assisted a woman who had been fired from her position with a law firm, after she complained about harassment and verbal abuse concerning her bisexuality. I assisted her in filing a Complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights claiming discrimination based upon her sexual preference and retaliation. This was the first time I had filed a Complaint based upon sexual preference discrimination.
The case went to mediation and because my highly competent client had found another job paying her more than she had been earning, we were able to settle the case just a few months later, for a satisfactory five figure amount, which is confidential. The client was very happy with the settlement and with how quickly I was able to resolve the matter. Such quick resolutions are, however, the exception, not the rule.
This was a small but fun case. In 2012 I represented a married couple and a single woman in a dispute with their landlord and property manager. Mellody et al. v. Whitney, et al., Civil Action No. 2011 CA 007207 B (DC Superior Court). Beginning in August 2010 and continuing until they moved out, their apartments were infested with rats. There were two apartments in the building, a converted town house. The three tenants complained for months without getting any effective help with the problem that was not only disgusting, but also a threat to their health. My clients made my job easier by having pictures of several dead rats that they had trapped in the kitchen of their apartment and in the crawl space under the building. In addition, and at my suggestion, they called the DC Housing Agency and had their apartments inspected. DC Housing issued two Violation Notices to the owners and the property manager. Still there was no effective response to get rid of the rats.
Unable to settle the matter before filing suit, I filed a complaint in DC Superior Court. There is good case law in the District of Columbia allowing tenants to recoup all or a portion of their rent when an owner, defined in the Housing Code to include the property manager, fails to comply with the Housing Code. And the Housing Code provides that rental premises must be “in a clean, safe and sanitary condition, free of rodents and vermin and in a habitable condition.”
In the lawsuit, I asked for recoupment of approximately $33,000.00 in rent, all of the rent paid during the rat infestation. After the exchange of written discovery, but before any depositions, we settled the case for $25,000.00. The clients were quite pleased with the outcome. So was I.
- AV Rating, the highest rating given by Martindale-Hubbell
Once again, in 2020, as it has for the last 19 consecutive years, Martindale-Hubbell has given me its prestigious AV Preeminent Rating, based upon its confidential surveys of my peers, other lawyers and members of the bar. Martindale-Hubbell is the most highly respected attorney rating service. AV Preeminent is Martindale-Hubbell’s highest achievable rating and is coveted by practicing attorneys.
In addition, in 2019, Martindale-Hubbell also rated me AV Preeminent in its “Judicial Edition,” based upon the “confidential opinions of the Bar and Judiciary,” in other words, the judges before whom I have appeared or tried cases. Again, AV Preeminent is the highest rating a lawyer can achieve.