Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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In 2012 and 2013, petitioners submitted permit applications to the San Juan County Department of Community Development. The county code listed 19 items that a party must submit to complete an application, one of which is paying "[t]he applicable fee." Petitioners paid the applicable fees, and the permits were issued. On March 18, 2015, almost three years later, petitioners filed this lawsuit, seeking a partial refund of the fees they now characterized as "illegally excessive" in violation of RCW 82.02.020. They sought certification as a class action lawsuit for everyone who paid San Juan County for consideration of land use and building permits, modifications, or renewals during the preceding three years. Petitioners requested a declaratory judgment, payment to the putative class reaching back three years for any amount found to be an overcharge, and attorney fees. The trial court dismissed the suit, finding the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) governed, and a failure to file suit within 21 days barred the action. Finding no reversible error, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Cmty. Treasures v. San Juan County" on Justia Law

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This matter involved two unrelated juveniles, E.H. and S.K.-P. in unrelated dependency proceedings. R.R., E.H.;s mother, and S.K.-P. both challenged the validity of RCW 13.34.100's discretionary standard for appointment of counsel for children in dependency proceedings, and sought instead a categorical right to counsel for all children in dependency proceedings. The Washington Supreme Court consolidate these cases to address that issue. The Supreme Court determined RCW 13.34.100(7)(a) was adequate under the Washington Constitution, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying a motion to appoint counsel. In light of GR 15, the Supreme Court held confidential juvenile court records remain sealed and confidential on appeal, and granted a joint motion to seal records in these matters. View "In re Dependency of E.H." on Justia Law

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Christopher Belling was forced to litigate to receive workers' compensation. The Employment Security Department sought to share in his award. Under some circumstances, when a person is forced to litigate to recover an award, others who seek to share in that award must also share in attorney fees. Under RCW 50.20.190, when a person receives both unemployment and workers' compensation benefits, the unemployment benefits must be repaid. The statute allows for situations when "equity and good conscience" makes repayment unfair under the circumstances. The Washington Supreme Court held in this case, the Department has to consider whether equity and good conscience required it to share in Belling's attorney fees as part of its large consideration of whether it would be fair to partially waive reimbursement of overpaid benefits under RCW 50.20.190(2). Given the case presented to the Department, the Supreme Court could not say the Department erred in declining to reduce reimbursement to account for Belling's attorney fees and costs. View "Belling v. Emp't Sec. Dep't" on Justia Law

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David Martin's employment with Gonzaga University was terminated. He sued, alleging he was wrongfully discharged because of whistle-blowing, and asserted a private cause of action under RCW 49.12.250 for an alleged violation of the statute's requirement he be provided with his complete personnel file. Gonzaga successfully moved for summary judgment, dismissing the case, and the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the wrongful discharge, but remanded the personnel file claim for further findings of fact. The issue this appeal presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether the Court of Appeals applied the proper test to Martin's whistle-blower claim. The Supreme Court determined the appellate court applied the incorrect standard, and that the personnel file claim was not yet justiciable. So the Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the whistle-blower claim, and reversed the personnel file claim, finding Gonzaga was entitled to summary judgment on both claims. View "Martin v. Gonzaga Univ." on Justia Law

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The Washington civil forfeiture statute allows law enforcement agencies to seize and take ownership of property that had a sufficient factual nexus to certain controlled substance violations; if law enforcement cannot prove the forfeiture is authorized, the claimant would be entitled to have the property returned and receive reasonable attorneys' fees incurred to get the property back. This case presented two issues of first impression for the Washington Supreme Court regarding the attorney fee provision of the statute: (1) who qualifies as a claimant when the property at issue is owned by a corporation; and (2) is a substantially prevailing claimant's fee award strictly limited to fees incurred in the forfeiture proceeding itself? The Court held: (1) a corporate shareholder who did not file a claim in the forfeiture case is not a claimant and cannot recover fees pursuant to the statute's plain language; and (2) the award is not strictly limited to fees incurred in the forfeiture proceeding itself - the statute gives courts discretion to award fees from the related criminal case if reasonably incurred for the primary purpose of resisting the forfeiture. View "Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enf't Team v. Junction City Lots 1 through 12 Inclusive" on Justia Law

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The central issue in this case was whether the administrative exhaustion rule found in the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) applies to all tort claims that arise during the land use decision-making process. In late 2009, Maytown purchased real property in Thurston County, Washington from the Port of Tacoma (Port) for the express purpose of operating a mine. The property came with an approved 20-year special use permit (permit) from Thurston County (County) for mining gravel. Maytown and the Port claimed the County's board of commissioners (Board) succumbed to political pressure from opponents to the mine and directed the County's Resource Stewardship Department to impose unnecessary procedural hurdles meant to obstruct and stall the mining operation. Because the property had been designated by the County as "mineral land of long term commercial significance," the County was obligated to balance the protection of the mineral land with the protection of critical areas. Other issues raised by this case centered on whether the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding of a substantive due process violation 42 U.S.C. 1983; whether an aggrieved party can recover prelitigation, administrative fora attorney fees intentionally caused by the tortfeasor under a tortious interference claim; and, whether the Court of Appeals erred in awarding a request under RAP 18.1(b) for appellate attorney fees that was not made in a separate section devoted solely to that request. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals on all but the third issue raised: the tortious interference claims pled in this case did not authorize recovery of prelitigation, administrative fora attorney fees. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed in part, and reversed in part. View "Maytown Sand & Gravel, LLC v. Thurston County" on Justia Law

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Sheila Rosenberg was invited to the home of Igor Lukashevich, her high school basketball coach. Lukashevich drank shots of vodka with Rosenberg, then shortly after leaving Lukashevich's home, Rosenberg was killed along with her boyfriend in a car accident. Michele Anderson, Rosenberg's mother sued Lukashevich's employer Soap Lake School District, but the trial court determined she failed to present sufficient evidence to support her claims. Therefore, the Washington Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly granted summary judgment to the school district. View "Anderson v. Soap Lake Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Jose Reyes died after a course of treatment for tuberculosis. Judith Reyes alleged that her husband did not have tuberculosis and that the treatment prescribed to him for that disease caused him fatal liver damage due to an undiagnosed, underlying, liver disease. Judith alleged that the Yakima Health District and Christopher Spitters, M.D., were negligent in treating Jose. A year after filing suit, her expert witness submitted an affidavit alleging as much. But because allegations of misdiagnosis without deviation from the proper standard of care was not the basis for liability, the Washington Supreme Court held that the expert witness' affidavit was insufficient to create a genuine issue of material face, and affirmed the Court of Appeals. "In so holding, we do not require talismanic words, but the words... the want of the right word makes lightning from lightening bugs." View "Reyes v. Yakima Health Dist." on Justia Law

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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 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