Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The United States Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Cox Construction was the general contractor of a remodeling project. Cox hired Baker & Son Construction, Inc. as a subcontractor. A Baker employee allegedly caused a two-by-four to fall from a railing and strike Ronnie Cox, owner of Cox Construction, who later died from his injury. Baker allegedly called an insurance agent to alert them of the incident. The agent told Baker that no action needed to be taken because at that time, no claim existed. A few months later, Baker received a wrongful death claim from an attorney representing Cox’s widow. Baker notified its insurer, Preferred Contractors Insurance Company (PCIC) of the claim. PCIC denied coverage, but agreed to defend Baker under a reservation of rights. The certified question to the Washington Supreme Court related to the “claims-made” nature of the policy and the timing of Baker’s tender of Ms. Cox’s claim. The Supreme Court replied to the certified question that in light of RCW 18.27, a contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy that requires the loss to occur and be reported within the same policy year, and provides neither neither prospective nor retroactive coverage violates Washington’s public policy. View "Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Constr., Inc." on Justia Law

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A child was taken from his mother after she brought him to the hospital. Hospital staff found the child had serious injuries. The father, who lived separately from the mother, asked that the child be placed with him. The Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Family recommended out-of-home placement, citing concern for the child’s safety. A court determined the child should have been placed with his godparents, based on the Department’s recommendation. The father moved for discretionary review of the shelter care order, arguing the court erred because the Department failed to make reasonable efforts to prevent removal from a parent. The Court of Appeals denied review, and a panel of the court declined to modify its ruling. The father than moved for discretionary review by the Oregon Supreme Court, which was granted. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court became moot, as the father ultimately agreed to an order of dependency in a subsequent hearing. The Supreme Court still opined on what “reasonable efforts” the Department had to make before a child could be removed for a parent or guardian’s care. The Department argued (and the trial court agreed) that given the acute and emergent circumstances of the case, it did not violate the reasonable efforts requirement. The father argued there was no such exception for emergent circumstances. The Supreme Court provided additional guidance as to what constituted reasonable efforts, and here, held the trial court erred in excusing the Department from making reasonable efforts to place the child with the father. View "In re Dependency of L.C.S." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on the Department of Natural Resources' ("DNR") land management strategies applicable to certain federal land grants (“state lands”) and county land grants (“forest board lands”), which involves harvesting timber from these lands to generate revenue for state institutions and counties. The petitioners, a group of individuals and nonprofit organizations (collectively Conservation NW), challenged DNR’s land management strategies on the grounds they violated the mandate under Washington Constitution article XVI, section 1 that “[a]ll the public lands granted to the state are held in trust for all the people.” Conservation NW argued DNR’s strategies prioritized maximizing revenue from timber harvests and undercut its obligation to manage granted lands for the broader public interest, which would have been better served by prioritizing conservation and efforts to mitigate climate change, wildfires, and land erosion. DNR contended it had a trustee obligation to manage the state and forest board lands specifically for the state institutions enumerated in the Enabling Act and the county beneficiaries. DNR acknowledged its land management strategies generated revenue but not “at the expense of forest health.” The trial court dismissed Conservation NW’s lawsuit against DNR pursuant to County of Skamania v. Washington, 685 P.2d 576 (1984), establishing DNR as a trustee under the Enabling Act. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the case. View "Conservation Northwest v. Commissioner of Public Lands" 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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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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The issue this appeal presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on whether a city ordinance requiring guns be safely kept and out of unauthorized hands, was preempted by state law. After robust debate following a mass shooting at the nearby Marysville Pilchuck High School, the Edmonds City Council adopted an ordinance requiring residents to safely store their firearms when not in use. At around the same time, Washington voters enacted Initiative 1639, which, among many other things, criminalized unsafe storage of firearms but in more limited circumstances than Edmonds’ ordinance. The initiative specifically did not “mandate[] how or where a firearm must be stored.” The Supreme Court determined the local ordinance was indeed preempted by the state law. View "Bass v. City of Edmonds" on Justia Law

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RCW 49.60.227 permitted a court to strike a racially restrictive, legally unenforceable covenant from the public records and eliminate the covenant from the title. This case concerned what under the statute, striking from the public records and eliminating from the title meant, and whether a court order declaring the covenant struck and void was all that was required or allowed. Alex May sought a declaratory action under former RCW 49.60.227 (2006) to have a racially restrictive covenant voided and physically removed from the title to his property and from the public records. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals concluded that the statute at issue did not allow the physical removal of the covenant from the title but, instead, allowed only for an order voiding the covenant to be filed with the title. In the interim, the legislature amended RCW 49.60.227, clarifying the procedure under which these covenants were struck and eliminated. The Washington Supreme Court held that the interim amendments in Laws of 2021, chapter 256, section 4 applied, and therefore the Supreme Court did not address the statute under which May initially sought to have the covenants removed. Accordingly, the case was remanded to the trial court for relief under Laws of 2021, chapter 256, section 4. View "In re That Portion of Lots 1 & 2" on Justia Law