Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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On Super Bowl Sunday, February 5, 2017, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Petitioner Joseph Zamora was walking to his niece’s house when a neighbor called the police to report a possible vehicle prowler. When Zamora reached the driveway of his niece’s home, he was contacted by responding officer Kevin Hake who indicated he needed to speak with Zamora. Hake quickly became nervous because of Zamora’s demeanor. Fearing Zamora had a weapon, Hake grabbed Zamora and attempted to restrain him. A struggle ensued and escalated to include what was described as “extreme acts of violence.” Ultimately, eight officers were involved in subduing Zamora. When responding paramedics arrived, Zamora was handcuffed, hog-tied, and lying face down in the snow with two officers restraining him; he had no heartbeat or pulse. It took the paramedics seven minutes to revive him. Zamora was taken to the hospital and remained in intensive care for approximately four weeks. A jury found Zamora guilty of two counts of third degree assault of a law enforcement officer. This case involved an issue of whether the prosecutor committed misconduct when, during jury selection, he repeatedly asked the potential jurors about their views on unlawful immigration, border security, undocumented immigrants, and crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. The Washington Supreme Court concluded the prosecutor’s questions and remarks apparently intentionally appealed to the jurors’ potential racial or ethnic bias, prejudice, or stereotypes and therefore constituted race-based prosecutorial misconduct. The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed and Zamora’s convictions vacated. View "Washington v. Zamora" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Jeffrey Conaway was prosecuted for felony indecent exposure. The State entered evidence of a docket entry showing that Conaway previously pleaded guilty to misdemeanor indecent exposure, complied with the conditions of a deferred sentence and was allowed to change his plea to not guilty, and had his case dismissed. The trial court determined that Conaway had “previously been convicted” of indecent exposure, making his current offense punishable as a felony. The Court of Appeals affirmed Conaway’s conviction. The Washington Supreme Court granted review to decide whether the dismissal of a previous misdemeanor conviction following completion of a deferred sentence precluded consideration of that conviction under RCW 9A.88.010(2)(c). The Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that it did not. Consistent with Washington v. Haggard, 461 P.3d 1159 (2020), the Supreme Court held that Conaway’s prior guilty plea to indecent exposure was sufficient to establish that he was previously convicted of that crime for purposes of proving the element of a prior conviction under RCW 9A.88.010(2)(c). View "Washington v. Conaway" on Justia Law

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In March 2017, three North Seattle banks were robbed. Police administered a variety of photomontages to witnesses. Some aspects of the photomontage process complied with best practices generally recognized by new scientific research; some aspects of that process did not; and some aspects of that process fell into a gray area on which the scientific literature was in dispute. Defendant John Stites, a/k/a Christopher Lee Derri, moved to suppress the identifications resulting from those photomontages on federal constitutional grounds; the trial court denied his motion, and he was convicted of all three robberies. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review asked whether trial courts had to consider new scientific research, developed after the 1977 Manson v. Brathwaite, 432 U.S. 98, decision, when applying that federal due process clause test. To this, the Supreme Court answered yes: courts must consider new, relevant, widely accepted scientific research when determining the suggestiveness and reliability of eyewitness identifications under Brathwaite. Considering this research, the Supreme Court concluded all three of the challenged identification procedures were suggestive. Under the totality of circumstances, however, the identifications were nonetheless reliable. Defendant’s convictions were affirmed. View "Washington v. Derri" on Justia Law

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The issues this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court involved the priority of mortgage liens, the scope of RCW 60.04.226, and whether to adopt certain sections of the Restatement (Third) of Property: Mortgages (Am. Law Inst. 1997). Principal among them: whether a senior mortgage holder’s future advances clause maintained priority over an intervening junior mortgage on the same property. The parties and the Court of Appeals referred to future advances and modification of mortgages interchangeably throughout this case. Though similar, these were different mortgages provisions, carried different legal consequences, and were governed by different provisions of the Restatement. The parties and the appeals court applied Restatement § 7.3 to the future advances clause in the instant mortgage documents. Restatement § 2.3 was the provision that governed future advances while Restatement § 7.3 governed mortgage modifications. Applying both Restatement § 7.3 and RCW 60.04.226 to a future advances clause creates a conflict because the statute does not provide a “stop-notice” protection while the Restatement does. The Washington Supreme Court read RCW 60.04.226 as applying only in the construction context. The Court thus reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court to determine the correct priority of claims by applying the common law rules outlined in our cases for both future advances and modifications. View "In re Gen. Receivership of EM Prop. Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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On April 9, 2019, Deputy Mark Rickerson was on patrol, driving an unmarked police vehicle through an area where there were “some problem houses.” The deputy noticed a Honda parked near the entry gate to a church parking lot, where residents were “concerned about all the vehicles that were parking there that didn’t belong in the area.” As Rickerson observed the Honda, he saw petitioner Palla Sum, who “was slumped over and appeared to be unconscious in the driver’s seat.” Rickerson conducted a records check of the Honda; the records showed that the car had not been reported stolen, but did not state the name of the current owner. Rickerson approached the car on foot, wearing his full uniform, asking Sum what he and his passenger were doing there, and for identification. Sum provided a false name and date of birth; the passenger gave his true name and birth date. Rickerson walked back to his patrol vehicle to check the names provided. While the deputy was in his vehicle, Sum started the Honda, “backed up quickly, and then took off,” driving partially on the sidewalk and over some grass. Rickerson activated his emergency lights and started pursuing the Honda, soon joined by another deputy in a separate vehicle. Sum drove at a high rate of speed through a stop sign and multiple red lights before ultimately crashing in someone’s front yard. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on the analysis that courts had to apply to determine whether a person has been seized by law enforcement for purposes of the Washington Constitution, and whether all the circumstances” of the encounter included the race and ethnicity of the allegedly seized person. Based on the totality of the circumstances presented in this case, the Court held Sum was seized when the deputy requested Sum’s identification while implying that Sum was under investigation for car theft. As the State properly conceded, at that time, the deputy did not have a warrant, reasonable suspicion, or any other lawful authority to seize Sum. As a result, Sum was unlawfully seized, and the false name and birth date he gave to the deputy had to be suppressed. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Washington v. Sum" on Justia Law

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N.G., the subject of this dependency proceeding, was born to mother M.S., in 2011. N.G.’s father had no meaningful relationship with N.G. M.S. met J.R., permissive intervenor in this case, in 2014. M.S. and J.R. had a child, N.G.’s half-brother, and married in 2015 but divorced in 2016. The children remained with M.S. and had regular visits with J.R. In August 2020, the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (the Department) received a report that M.S. was neglecting the children by locking them in their bedrooms for long periods of time, exposing them to drug paraphernalia, and failing to properly feed them. In October, a juvenile court entered an agreed shelter care order that placed N.G. and his half-sibling with J.R. M.S. agreed to this placement in the dependency order. In the same month, J.R. moved for the juvenile court to grant concurrent jurisdiction over both children in family court so J.R. could modify his son’s parenting plan and petition for nonparental custody of N.G. The juvenile court granted the motion as to J.R.’s son but denied concurrent jurisdiction for N.G. “at this time.” Despite concurrent jurisdiction over N.G. being denied, J.R. petitioned for de facto parentage in family court in December. J.R. then filed a motion to intervene in the dependency. The juvenile court granted J.R.’s motion to intervene under CR 24(b) without explaining its reasoning. M.S. filed a motion for discretionary review with the Court of Appeals, which was ultimately denied. The Washington Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals correctly denied the mother’s motion for discretionary review. "Although the trial court committed probable error when it failed to articulate why it allowed permissive intervention under CR 24(b)(2), the intervention of the dependent child’s former stepfather did not have an immediate effect outside the courtroom. Consequently, the Court of Appeals did not commit probable error in denying discretionary review." View "In re Dependency of N.G." on Justia Law

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The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question to the Washington Supreme Court, asking whether Washington law recognized an exception to the "learned intermediary doctrine" when a prescription drug manufacturer advertises its product directly to consumers. Under the learned intermediary doctrine, a prescription drug manufacturer satisfies its duty to warn patients of a drug’s risks when it adequately warns the prescribing physician. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative: there was no direct-to-consumer advertising exception. "The policies underlying the learned intermediary doctrine remain intact even in the direct-to-consumer advertising context. Further, existing state law sufficiently regulates product warnings and prescription drug advertising. Accordingly, we hold regardless of whether a prescription drug manufacturer advertises its products directly to consumers, the manufacturer satisfies its duty to warn a patient when it adequately warns the prescribing physician of the drug’s risks and side effects." View "Dearinger v. Eli Lilly & Co." on Justia Law

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This case addressed the difference between two claims that arose from the same accident and that were based on the same medical care: a medical malpractice claim and a failure to secure informed consent claim. In 2017, Mari Davies was in a single-car rollover accident. When Davies arrived at the E.R. she had hypertension, high blood pressure, left shoulder pain, neck pain, chest pain, abdominal pain, a headache, and some tingling in her left arm. She also had preexisting kidney stones, diverticulosis, pneumonia, and diabetes. Dr. Michael Hirsig evaluated her as soon as she arrived in the E.R.: consulted with a neurosurgeon, ordered tests and prescribed medicines. Dr. Hirsig diagnosed Davies with a stable cervical spine fracture. He determined that she had no “neurological symptoms.” Davies visited her primary care provider the next day. While in his office, Davies exhibited stroke symptoms. She was immediately transported to the E.R. at Providence St. Peter Hospital. She had, indeed, suffered a stroke. It was later determined Davies’ stroke was caused by a vertebral artery dissection (VAD) that occurred at the time of the accident. A VAD is typically detected by a computed tomography angiography (CTA) scan. It was undisputed that the E.R. doctor who treated Davies when she first presented to the hospital, did not order a CTA scan. Davies filed suit against MultiCare Health System, the parent corporation of Good Samaritan Hospital, alleging (1) medical negligence, (2) failure to obtain informed consent, and (3) corporate negligence. On cross motions for partial summary judgment, the trial court dismissed Davies’ informed consent claim. The trial court found no material factual dispute related to the informed consent claim and dismissed it as unsupported by the law. Davies’ medical negligence claims proceeded to trial. The jury found that none of the health care provider defendants were negligent. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding facts in the record sufficient to support an informed consent claim. The Washington Supreme Court adhered to prior decisions holding that in general, a patient cannot bring an informed consent claim where, as here, the physician ruled out the undiagnosed condition entirely. View "Davies v. MultiCare Health Sys." on Justia Law

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In federal court, Plaintiff Timothy Martin sued the Department of Corrections (DOC) and three DOC-employed medical providers, alleging Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and medical malpractice under state law. Following the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the federal district court certified three questions of Washington state law to the Washington Supreme Court, all relating to whether RCW 7.70.150’s requirement of a certificate of merit for medical malpractice suits against state agents was constitutional. The Washington Court held that RCW 7.70.150 was invalid on its face based on Putman v. Wenatchee Valley Med. Ctr., PS, 216 P.3d 374 (2009), and on statutory language that did not differentiate between private and public defendants. Because the Supreme Court answered certified question 1 in the affirmative, it did not reach the federal court's remaining questions. View "Martin v. Dep't of Corrections" on Justia Law

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M.Y.G. was 15 years old when he stole two cars. The State charged him with two counts of theft of a motor vehicle. M.Y.G. moved for and was granted a deferred disposition, but he objected to providing a DNA sample. The trial court ordered M.Y.G. to submit a DNA sample but stayed collection pending appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, upholding the DNA collection. I.A.S. was 17 years old and under the influence of alcohol when he stole a truck, crashed it into a tree, and ran from the scene. The State charged him with one count of second degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle, second degree theft, driving under the influence, and failure to remain at the scene of an accident. I.A.S. moved for and was granted a deferred disposition. He too objected to providing a DNA sample, but the court ordered him to submit one, staying collection pending his appeal. The Court of Appeal again affirmed the trial court, requiring I.A.S. to give a DNA sample. I.A.S. and M.Y.G. appealed, presenting the question of whether a juvenile was “convicted” when they enter into a deferred disposition. The Washington Supreme Court held that a juvenile is “convicted” when they enter into a deferred disposition. However, the Court held that the juvenile offenses committed by the petitioners in this case did not trigger the DNA collection statute. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals in part and reversed in part. The orders requiring a DNA sample from M.Y.G. and I.A.S were vacated. View "Washington v. M.Y.G." on Justia Law