Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Kenneth Wright received an unsolicited text message that appeared to come from an acquaintance inviting him to download Lyft's cellphone application. Wright sued as a putative class member. The federal district court has certified questions of Washington law to the Washington Supreme Court pertaining to the Washington Consumer Electronic Mail Act (CEMA) and the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The questions centered on whether (1) the recipient of a text message that violates the CEMA has a private right of action for damages (as opposed to injunctive relief) directly under the statute; and (2) whether the liquidated damages provision of CEMA establish a causation and/or injury elements of a claim under the CPA, or must a recipient of a text in violation of CEMA prove injury-in-fact before s/he can recover the liquidated amount. The Washington Supreme Court answered "no" to the first question, and "yes" to the second. View "Wright v. Lyft, Inc." on Justia Law

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A question of Washington law was certified to the Washington Supreme Court on whether prospective employers are free to engage in retaliatory discrimination in the hiring process. Waterville School District No. 209 hired Jin Zhu as a math teacher in 2006. In 2010, Waterville issued a notice of probable cause for Zhu's discharge, which he appealed. The hearing officer determined that there was not probable cause for discharge and restored Zhu to his position. Zhu then sued Waterville in federal district court, alleging that Waterville had subjected him to racially motivated disparate treatment, a hostile work environment, and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. sections 1983, 2000e-2, and 2000e-3. His complaint alleged that he filed multiple grievances with Waterville regarding hostile and abusive actions by his students; instead of attempting to remedy the situation, Zhu alleged Waterville took retaliatory actions against him for filing the grievances, including attempting to discharge him without probable cause. After the district court denied Waterville's motion for summary judgment dismissal, the parties settled and Zhu resigned from Waterville in March 2012. Three months after resigning from Waterville, Zhu applied for a position as a "Math-Science Specialist" with ESD 171. Zhu was one of three candidates interviewed, but ESD 171 ultimately hired a different candidate, whom Zhu claims was far less qualified for the position. Zhu sued ESD 171 in federal district court, alleging that it refused to hire him in retaliation for his prior lawsuit against Waterville, thereby violating WLAD's antiretaliation statute, RCW 49.60.210(1), as well as other state and federal laws. The Washington Supreme Court held that in accordance with the plain language of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), chapter 49.60 RCW, retaliatory discrimination against job applicants by prospective employers was prohibited. Therefore, plaintiff Jin Zhu's claim that defendant North Central Educational Service District - ESD 171 (ESD 171) refused to hire him because of his opposition to his former employer's racial discrimination stated a valid cause of action. View "Zhu v. N. Cent. Educ. Serv. District" on Justia Law

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The Public Utility District No. 1 of Kittitas County (district) fired Kim Mikkelsen after 27 years of service. Mikkelsen sued the district, alleging that, among other things, her dismissal violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). Specifically, Mikkelsen claims that Charles Ward, the general manager, exhibited a bias against women and older employees and that gender and age discrimination were substantial factors in his decision to fire her. She also argued her dismissal violated the progressive correction action policy the district distributed to its employees. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment dismissal of Mikkelsen's age discrimination claim because Mikkelsen presented almost no evidence of age discrimination. But the Court reversed summary judgment dismissal of Mikkelsen's gender discrimination claim because the facts taken in the light most favorable to her create a material issue of fact about whether gender discrimination was a substantial factor in Ward's decision to fire her. The corrective action policy was ambiguous and could plausibly be read as establishing a for-cause standard for dismissal. View "Mikkelsen v. Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1 of Kittitas County" on Justia Law

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This case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review claims of breaches of fiduciary duty and legal malpractice against lawyers hired to defend insureds in a civil action where the insurance company provided the defense. The insureds claimed the lawyers failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest based on long-standing relationships the law firm had with the insurance company in not only accepting cases representing insureds in other civil cases, but also representing the insurance company itself in coverage disputes. The insureds also claimed the attorneys failed to advise them of settlement negotiations, and by taking settlement directions from the insurer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the lawyers, finding the insureds failed to establish an actionable breach. The Court of Appeals affirmed. While the Supreme Court disagreed with portions of the appellate court's analysis, it affirmed the result. View "Arden v. Forsberg & Umlauf, PS" on Justia Law

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Basilio Carrera lost his right hand in a workplace accident. The issue this accident presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review was whether the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) could pursue a third party claim for Carrera's injuries against Sunheaven Farms LLC, the contractor responsible for workplace safety at Carrera's job. The Washington Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' holding that L&I could pursue such a claim: statutes of limitations do not run against the sovereign when, as here, the State brought an action in the public interest. Benefit to a private party in addition to that state interest does not strip a state action of its sovereign character. Here, L&I's claim stands to benefit the State by reimbursing the medical aid fund (Fund) and furthering public policy goals; it is therefore exempt from the statute of limitations under RCW 4.16.160. The Court of Appeals also correctly interpreted chapter 51.24 RCW as authorizing L&I to recover damages beyond what it may retain. View "Carrera v. Olmstead" on Justia Law

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This case involved the transfer of property that once belonged to Vanessa Ward, now in possession of Selene RMOF II REO Acquisitions II LLC (“Selene”), which acquired the property in 2012 from a purchaser at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale. It also concerned Ward's claim that she was the victim of mortgage fraud regarding the property in 2004 and that all subsequent property transfers were therefore void. Selene challenged an unpublished Court of Appeals decision reversing an order granting Selene a writ of restitution evicting Ward from the property. At issue was: (1) whether Selene was authorized to bring an unlawful detainer action as a purchaser from someone who had bought the property at a nonjudicial foreclosure sale; and (2) whether the summary procedures of unlawful detainer were available where Ward asserted ownership of the property she occupied via an unrecorded quitclaim deed. The Washington Supreme Court held unlawful detainer was available to Selene under the circumstances of this case and reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Selene RMOF II Reo Acquisitions II, LLC v. Ward" on Justia Law

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Former clients sued their attorneys for legal malpractice based, in part, on the attorneys' withdrawal from a prior ease. But the attorneys obtained that withdrawal by court order. In the original case, the former clients appealed the court's order approving withdrawal, and that appeal was rejected. The attorneys thus argued collateral estoppel applied to bar a malpractice action based on their withdrawal. The Washington Supreme Court agreed: withdrawal by court order in an earlier proceeding was dispositive in a later malpractice suit against the attorney. Although other malpractice complaints unrelated to the withdrawal would not be precluded, a client cannot relitigate whether the attorney's withdrawal was proper. “If we are to have rules permitting attorney withdrawal, we must allow attorneys to have confidence in those rules.” View "Schibel v. Eymann" on Justia Law

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The parties have waged protracted litigation, yet only recently did defendant WaferTech LLC assert that the named plaintiff lacked capacity to sue. Specifically, WaferTech argued that there was no such corporate entity as Business Services "of" America II Inc., as plaintiff had identified itself. The "true" plaintiff, Business Service America II Inc. (BSA), asked the trial court to amend the caption to correct the misnomer, but the trial court held that as named in the caption the plaintiff lacked the capacity to sue. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and BSA petitioned for this court's review. Because WaferTech waived any right to protest the misnomer by participating in years of litigation under the erroneous caption, the Washington Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Bus. Servs. of Am. II, Inc. v. Wafertech, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The University of Washington (UW) owned property in City of Seattle but contended the City’s “Landmark Preservation Ordinance” (LPO) could not apply to any of the University’s property. UW wanted to demolish a building on its Seattle campus that was nominatd for potential landmark designation pursuant to the LPO. The City disagreed that the ordinance did not apply. UW filed a declaratory judgment action asking for a judicial determination that the LPO did not apply to any of UW’s property as a matter of law. The Washington Supreme Court determined all of UW' s arguments either failed as a matter of law or could not be decided in the first instance by a state court of general jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court and remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of the City. View "Univ. of Wash. v. City of Seattle" on Justia Law

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Two-year-old Derrick Smelser was run over while playing in his yard by a car driven by the defendant, Jeanne Paul. At trial, Paul was allowed to assert an affirmative defense that the child's father was partially at fault based on negligent supervision of the child. Instructed under RCW 4.22.070, the jury determined the father was 50 percent at fault. However, the trial court refused to enter judgment against the father based on the parental immunity doctrine. The result was that the child's recovery against the driver was reduced by 50 percent. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Washington Supreme Court reversed, holding that under chapter 4.22 RCW and Washington case law, no tort or fault exists based on the claim of negligent supervision by a parent. View "Smelser v. Paul" on Justia Law