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Appellant Cynthia Stewart appealed after she was found ineligible for unemployment benefits. Stewart suffered from migraine headaches and took prescription medication to help manage her symptoms. Her former employer fired Stewart after she "came to work impaired due to prescription narcotics for the second time in a six-month period." Stewart's application for unemployment benefits was initially granted, but her former employer appealed, and an administrative law judge reversed. Stewart petitioned for review by the BSD commissioner, who affirmed that Stewart was ineligible for benefits. Stewart's petition was not subject to the procedural statutes in the Employment Security Act (ESA), Title 50, RCW; instead, her petition for judicial review was governed by the procedures listed in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), chapter 34.05 RCW. And pursuant to the APA, Stewart did not timely serve her petition on the ESD. She therefore failed to invoke the superior court's appellate jurisdiction, and the Washington Supreme Court determined the superior court correctly recognized that it was required to dismiss this case. View "Stewart v. Emp't Sec. Dep't" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on the pattern jury instruction on attempted first-degree robbery. Petitioner Edward Nelson argued the State had to prove that the employee he attempted to rob had ownership, representative or possessory interest in the property. Specifically, he argued the "essential element" of representative or possessory interest should have been included in the "to convict" instruction to the jury. The Court of Appeal agreed this essential element was missing, but that the error was harmless. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the outcome of the appellate court's decision, finding that the "to convict" instruction in this case was constitutionally adequate. View "Washington v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of Washington law to the Washington Supreme Court. This case concerned a class action insurance claim suit pending in federal court. Plaintiff Brett Durant was a State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company insured, and carried a $35,000 personal injury protection (PIP) rider. In 2012, Durant was injured in a motor vehicle accident; he opened a PIP claim with State Farm. The "coverage letter" advised Durant that "Medical services must also be essential in achieving maximum medical improvement for the injury you sustained in the accident." Durant sought treatment with chiropractor Harold Rasmussen, DC, who diagnosed injuries including sprains to the neck, back, pelvis, and right shoulder. After a shoulder MRI showed a ligament sprain and "a possible small type I SLAP [(superior labral anteroposterior)] tear,"Durant was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed"mild bursitis/tendinitis,"which was treated with physical therapy and cortisone injections. Durant's injuries were not resolved by a date set by his physicians; his providers billed his PIP claims, but State Farm denied them on grounds that Durant had "previously reached maximum medical improvement." The federal district court asked the Washington Supreme Court (1) whether an insurer violates WAC 284-30-395(1)(a) or (b) if that insurer denied or terminated an insured's medical benefits based on a finding of "maximum medical improvement;" and (2) whether the term "maximum medical improvement" was consistent with the definition of "reasonable" or "necessary" as those terms appeared in WAC 284-30-395(1). The Washington Court answered the first certified question "yes." With regard to the second question, the Court found that under the circumstances of this case, the term "maximum medical improvement" was not consistent with the terms "reasonable" or "necessary" as those terms appeared in WAC 284-30-395(1). View "Durant v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on whether records containing trade secrets were categorically excluded from public disclosure under the Public Records Act (PRA), ch. 42.56 RCW. Respondents Lyft Inc. and Rasier LLC operated car-hailing or "transportation networking companies" (TNC) in several locations, including the city of Seattle (City). After the City passed a 2014 ordinance that limited the number of TNC drivers active at any given time, Lyft and Rasier (collectively L/R) organized a coalition to overturn the ordinance through a voter referendum. In response to mediation among the City, L/R, and taxi and for-hire stakeholders in the ground transportation industry, the referendum proposal was withdrawn. The parties agreed that L/R would submit quarterly standardized reports to the City that include the total number of rides, the percentage of rides completed in each zip code, pick-up and drop-off zip codes, the percentage of rides requested but unfulfilled, collision data, and the number of requested rides for accessible vehicles. In response to L/R concerns regarding data confidentiality, a mediation provision stated that "'[t]he city will work to achieve the highest possible level of confidentiality for information provided within the confines of state law.'' In January 2016, appellant Jeff Kirk, a resident of Texas, submitted a PRA request to the City seeking L/R reports for the final two quarters of 2015. Specifically, Kirk sought release of records submitted by L/R to the City as required by SMC 6.310.540, including the percentage and number of rides picked up in each zip code, and the pick-up and drop-off zip codes of each ride. L/R insisted their quarterly zip code reports to the City consisted of trade secrets protected under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA). The Washington Supreme Court held those records were not categorically excluded from disclosure: applying the injunction standard set forth in RCW 42.56.540, such records may be enjoined from disclosure only if disclosure would clearly not be in the public interest, and would substantially and irreparably damage a person or a vital government interest. The superior court erred by applying the general injunction standard of Civil Rule (CR) 65, and by not adequately considering the PRA's more stringent standard. View "Lyft, Inc. v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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Between 1853 and 1995, the Port Gamble Bay facility in Kitsap County, Washington operated as a sawmill and forest products manufacturing facility by Pope & Talbot and its corporate predecessors. Close to four decades after Puget Mill Co., predecessor to Pope & Talbot, began operating the sawmill, the legislature authorized the disposal of certain occupied state-owned aquatic lands, including the tidal lands within Port Gamble Bay. The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued the first lease for Pope & Talbot's use of the Port Gamble Bay submerged lands in 1974. In 1985, Pope & Talbot transferred 71,363 acres of its timberlands, timber, land development, and resort businesses in the State of Washington to Pope Resources, LP, which in turn leased the mill area to Pope & Talbot. Pope & Talbot ceased mill operations in 1995. Pope sought to develop their Port Gamble holdings for a large, high-density community with a marina. However, the Port Gamble site was contaminated, in part from the operation of sawmill buildings to saw logs for lumber, operation of chip barge loading facilities and a log-transfer facility, particulate sawmill emissions from wood and wood waste burning, in-water log rafting and storage, and creosote treated pilings placed throughout the bay to facilitate storage and transport of logs and wood products. After entering into a consent decree with the Washington Department of Ecology in 2013 for remediation of portions of the site exposed to hazardous substances, Pope/OPG filed a complaint in 2014 seeking a declaration that DNR was liable for natural resources damages and remedial costs, and for contribution of costs. The Superior Court granted summary judgment in favor of DNR in 2016. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that DNR was an "owner or operator" with potential liability under the Washington Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). DNR appealed, and the Washington Supreme Court reversed, finding DNR was neither an "owner" nor an "operator" of the Port Gamble Bay facility for purposes of MTCA. View "Pope Res., LP v. Dep't of Nat. Res." on Justia Law

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Michael Murray appealed his exceptional sentence for three counts of indecent exposure. His appeal raised two questions for the Washington Supreme Court’s review: (1) whether the sexual motivation aggravator, RCW 9.94A.535(3)(f), could apply to the crime of indecent exposure, RCW 9A.88.010; and (2) whether the rapid recidivism aggravator, ROW 9.94A.535(3)(t), was void for vagueness as applied to Murray. The Court held that because indecent exposure lacked an inherent sexual motive, the sexual motivation aggravator could apply. Second, because a reasonable person would not have to guess that reoffending 16 days after being released from jail is "shortly after," the Court held the rapid recidivism aggravator was not void for vagueness as applied to Murray. View "Washington v. Murray" on Justia Law

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Chem-Safe Environmental was a hazardous waste facility located in Kittitas County. 2002. While inspecting a neighboring facility, James Rivard, the Kittitas County environmental supervisor, and Gary Bleeker, an Ecology employee, saw drums labeled as hazardous waste on property belonging to ChemSafe and ABC Holdings. Rivard learned that Chem-Safe did not hold a permit to handle or store moderate risk waste. Over the next two years, both Kittitas County and Ecology employees visited the Chem-Safe facility together, e-mailed one another about the matter, and met to discuss the progress in bringing Chem-Safe into compliance with state and local regulations. Eventually, Kittitas County issued a "Notice of Violation and Abatement" (NOVA) requiring Chem-Safe to halt operations until it obtained the necessary permits and equipment and conducted contamination testing. Chem-Safe appealed a hearing officer's ruling, which was subsequently affirmed by the superior court and the Court of Appeals. During the course of the litigation, Kittitas County deputy prosecutors sent several e-mails back and forth to Ecology employees. In one of those e-mails, an Ecology employee e-mailed a county deputy prosecutor, asking, "Should these emails be considered attorney-client privileged?" The Kittitas County deputy prosecutor responded, "[Ecology] is not my client (Kittitas County is), therefore, these e-mails are not attorney-client privileged." The assistant attorney general opined there might be other privileges that applied to the e-mails but that she lacked enough information to know the specific options for keeping the e-mails privileged; thus, the record reflected only the parties' understanding of whether Kittitas County and Ecology's communications with one another were attorney-client privileged. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review were two important aspects of the work product doctrine: (1) were the e-mails exchanged between the Kittitas County and the Department of Ecology work product; and (2) if yes, were they discoverable under the Public Records Act (PRA), chapter 42.56 RCW? The Court held the e-mails were work product because they were prepared by or for Kittitas County in anticipation of litigation. Furthermore, the Court found Kittitas County did not waive its work product protection because disclosure of the e-mails to Ecology never created a significant likelihood that an adversary would also obtain the information. View "Kittitas County v. Allphin" on Justia Law

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This case addressed the adequacy of the parole remedy available under RCW 9.94A.730, the Miller "fix" statute. Jai'Mar Scott was convicted by a jury in 1990 of first degree premeditated murder for killing his neighbor, a 78-year-old-woman who suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Scott was 17 years old when he committed the murder. The juvenile court declined jurisdiction, and Scott was tried, convicted, and sentenced as an adult. At sentencing, the parties agreed that the standard range was 240 to 320 months, with 240 months being the mandatory minimum sentence that could be imposed. The State requested an exceptional sentence above the standard range. The defense requested the low end of the standard range. The trial court sentenced Scott to an exceptional sentence of 900 months based on four independent findings: (1) that Scott's conduct constituted deliberate cruelty, (2) that his conduct was an abuse of trust, (3) that the crime involved multiple injuries, and (4) that the victim was particularly vulnerable. On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the 900-month sentence imposed was not clearly excessive because the "aggravating factors are both numerous and individually and collectively egregious." The Court of Appeals also rejected Scott's assertion that his exceptional sentence was improper in light of his youth at the time of the crime. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed: consistent with the federal Supreme Court’s decision in Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718 (2016), the Washington Court held that RCW 9.94A.730's parole provision was an adequate remedy for a Miller violation, rendering unnecessary the resentencing of a defendant who long ago received a de facto life sentence as a juvenile. View "Washington v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Jameel Padilla was convicted for communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. At issue was Padilla's community custody condition prohibiting him from "possess[ing] or access[ing] pornographic materials, as directed by his supervising Community Corrections Officer" (CCO). Padilla argued the condition and its accompanying definition of "pornographic materials" were unconstitutionally vague. Although the condition included a definition of "pornographic materials," the Washington Supreme Court determined the definition itself was vague and overbroad. “A condition cannot be saved from a vagueness challenge merely because it contains a definition when that definition itself suffers the same weakness. Moreover, an overbroad definition does not sufficiently put the offender on notice of what materials are prohibited and subjects him to possible arbitrary enforcement.” The Court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision upholding the condition and remand to the trial court for further definition of the term "pornographic materials" following a determination of whether the restriction was narrowly tailored based on Padilla's conviction. View "Washington v. Padilla" on Justia Law

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Hollis Blockman was charged with and convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a school bus stop. Blockman was discovered in Patricia Burton's apartment during a protective sweep by police, which Burton consented to, in response to a report of an assault and robbery committed in the apartment by Burton and two men. On appeal. Blockman contended the sweep exceeded the scope of the "protective sweep" exception to the warrant requirement under Maryland v. Buie, 494 U.S. 325 (1990), and therefore the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence discovered in the course of the protective sweep. The Washington Supreme Court found that because Burton's unchallenged consent fit within the consent exception to the warrant requirement, the trial court did not err in denying the motion to suppress. View "Washington v. Blockman" on Justia Law