Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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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 Selene challenged an unpublished Court of Appeals decision reversing an order granting Selene a writ of restitution evicting Ward from the property.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

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Petitioner Chelan Basin Conservancy (Conservancy) sought the removal of six acres of fill material that respondent GBI Holding Co. added to its property in 1961 to keep the formerly dry property permanently above the artificially raised seasonal water fluctuations of Lake Chelan. At issue was whether the State consented to the fill's impairment of that right and, if so, whether such consent violated the public trust doctrine. After review, the Washington Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the legislature consented to the fill's impairment of navigable waters under RCW 90.58.270 (the Savings Clause), but the Court of Appeals prematurely concluded such consent did not violate the public trust doctrine. Because the trial court never reached the highly factual public trust issue, the Court reversed and remanded to the trial court to determine in the first instance whether RCW 90.58.270 violated the public trust doctrine. View "Chelan Basin Conservancy v. GBI Holding Co." on Justia Law

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The federal district court has asked the Washington Supreme Court to answer two certified questions concerning how a Washington labor regulation addressing meal breaks should be applied. A wage dispute was pending at the federal court. Plaintiff Michael Brady filed an amended class action complaint seeking unpaid wages for meal breaks that defendant Autozone Inc. allegedly withheld from employees. Autozone removed the case to the federal district court. Brady later moved in that court to certify a class. After reviewing Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-126-092; Administrative Policy ES.C.6; and various decisions from Washington state courts, Western District of Washington, and California, the district court concluded that employers have met their obligation under the law if they ensure that employees have the opportunity for a meaningful meal break, free from coercion or any other impediment. The district court expressly rejected the notion that Washington has adopted a strict liability approach to the taking of meal breaks. In doing so, the district court found that class certification would be inappropriate considering the unique fact scenarios associated with each potential violation of the meal break statute. Accordingly, the district court denied Brady's motion for class certification. Brady sought review of this denial in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court would not permit Brady to appeal the decision. Brady then filed a motion in the district court, seeking to certify two questions to the Washington Supreme Court: (1) Is an employer strictly liable under WAC 296-126-092?; (2) If an employer is not strictly liable under WAC 296-126-092, does the employee carry the burden to prove that his employer did not permit the employee an opportunity to take a meaningful break as required by WAC 296-126-092? The Washington Court answered the first certified question no: The employer is not automatically liable if a meal break is missed because the employee may waive the meal break. The Court answered the second certified question: an employee asserting a meal break violation under WAC 296-126-092 can establish his or her prima facie case by providing evidence that he or she did not receive a timely meal break. The burden then shifts to the employer to rebut this by showing that in fact no violation occurred or that a valid waiver exists. View "Brady v. Autozone Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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Without alleging a defendant purposefully availed itself of the privilege of doing business in Washington, thus invoking the benefits and protections of Washington laws, exercising jurisdiction would not comport with due process. Special Electric Company Inc. asked the Washington Supreme Court to reverse the Court of Appeals because that court found Washington could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Special Electric under a stream of commerce theory without any allegation that Special Electric purposefully availed itself of Washington's laws. Because the parties and trial court did not have the benefit of the Court’s recent decision in Washington v. LG Electronics, Inc., 375 P.3d 1035 (2016), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 648 (2017), or the recently disclosed evidence of Special Electric' s unrelated contacts in Washington, the Supreme Court remanded this case back to the trial court for reconsideration. The Court accepted review in this case, however, because it disagreed with the Court of Appeals' application of “LG Electronics,” and this case offered an opportunity for the Supreme Court to give guidance to the lower courts on what a plaintiff must allege for specific personal jurisdiction. View "Noll v. Amer. Biltrite Inc." on Justia Law

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The sole issue in this case was whether advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs) were per se disqualified from testifying on proximate cause in a medical negligence case. The Washington Supreme Court held that ARNPs may be qualified to testify regarding causation in a medical malpractice case if the trial court determines that the ARNP meets the threshold requirements of ER 702. The ability to independently diagnose and prescribe treatment for a particular malady was strong evidence that the expert might be qualified to discuss the cause of that same malady. The Court reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Frausto v. Yakima HMA, LLC" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case centered on the interpretation of the "right to travel" provision Article III of the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855, in the context of importing fuel into Washington State. The Washington State Department of Licensing (Department) challenged Cougar Den Inc.'s importation of fuel without holding an importer's license and without paying state fuel taxes under former chapter 82.36 RCW, repealed by LAWS OF 2013, ch. 225, section 501, and former chapter 82.38 RCW (2007). An administrative law judge ruled in favor of Cougar Den, holding that the right to travel on highways should be interpreted to preempt the tax. The Department's director, Pat Kohler, reversed. On appeal, the Yakima County Superior Court reversed the director's order and ruled in favor of Cougar Den. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cougar Den, Inc. v. Dep't of Licensing" on Justia Law