Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Keck v. Collins
Darla Keck filed a medical malpractice case against doctors Chad Collins, DMD, and Patrick Collins, DDS after she experienced complications following sleep apnea surgery. The Doctors moved for summary judgment, arguing she lacked a qualified medical expert who could provide testimony to establish her claim. In response to the motion, her counsel filed two timely affidavits and one untimely affidavit from her medical expert. The trial court granted a motion to strike the untimely affidavit. Considering the remaining affidavits, the court ruled that the expert did not connect his opinions to specific facts to support the contention that the Doctors' treatment fell below the standard of care. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment for the Doctors. The Court of Appeals reversed. Although it agreed that the two timely affidavits lacked sufficient factual support to defeat summary judgment, it held that the trial court should have denied the motion to strike and should have considered the third affidavit. This affidavit, the court held, contained sufficient factual support to defeat summary judgment. This case raised two issues for the Supreme Court's review on appeal of the Court of Appeals' reversal: (1) whether the trial court used the appropriate standard of review for the challenged ruling to strike untimely filed evidence submitted in response to the summary judgment motion; and (2) whether the expert's timely second affidavit showed a genuine issue for trial that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff to defeat summary judgment. The Supreme Court held that the trial court abused its discretion for failing to consider the factors from the governing caselaw, "Burnet v. Spokane Ambulance," ( 933 P.2d 1036 (1997)), on the record before striking the evidence. The Court also held that the second, timely-filed affidavid showed a genuine issue for trial that ciould have defeated summary judgment. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the Court of Appeals' reversal. View "Keck v. Collins" on Justia Law
J.S. v. Vill. Voice Media Holdings, LLC
Advertisements featuring three minor girls, J.S., S.L., and L.C. (collectively J.S.), allegedly were posted on a website owned and maintained by Village Voice Media Holdings, d/b/a Backpage.com, Backpage.com LLC and New Times Media LLC, d/b/a/ Backpage.com (collectively Backpage). J.S. allegedly was raped multiple times by adult customers who responded to the advertisements. J.S. filed a complaint alleging state law claims for damages against Backpage and Baruti Hopson, asserting claims for negligence, outrage, sexual exploitation of children, ratification/vicarious liability, unjust enrichment, invasion of privacy, sexual assault and battery, and civil conspiracy. Backpage moved to dismiss on the theory that it was immune from suit in relation to J.S. 's state law claims under the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA). Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants did more than just provide a forum for illegal content; plaintiffs alleged defendants helped develop it. Taking the complaint as true, the Washington Supreme Court found that plaintiffs alleged sufficient facts that, if proved, would show that defendants helped to produce the illegal content and therefore were subject to liability under state law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "J.S. v. Vill. Voice Media Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law
Maziar v. Dep’t of Corr.
Scott Walter Maziar sustained injuries while on board a ferry operated by the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC). Maziar used the ferry to get to and from work. Since Maziar was injured at sea, he brought a general maritime negligence claim against the DOC. He initially requested a jury trial, but he moved to strike his demand because he thought that no jury trial right existed for general maritime negligence cases. The DOC objected, but the trial court agreed with Maziar, struck his jury request, and awarded him damages after a bench trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court on the jury trial issue but on different grounds, holding that although a jury trial right generally applied to general maritime negligence actions in state court. The State did not have a constitutional or statutory jury trial right in tort actions. The issue this case presented on appeal was whether the State had a jury trial right in tort actions. The Court held that it does: several statutes read together demonstrate that the legislature meant to treat the State as if it were a private party with regard to matters of civil procedure and confer on any party (including the State) the right to have a jury determine most matters of fact. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for a jury trial. View "Maziar v. Dep't of Corr." on Justia Law
Boeing Co. v. Dep’t of Labor & Indus.
Patricia Doss filed a claim for workers' compensation with the Department of Labor and Industries after suffering chemical exposure during the course of employment with The Boeing Company. The exposure permanently aggravated her preexisting asthma, and she needed ongoing medical treatment as a result of these combined injuries. The Department determined that the combined effects of Doss's preexisting asthma and the aggravation of this condition during her Boeing employment rendered her permanently totally disabled. A right knee injury also contributed to Doss's preexisting disability. Due to her permanent total disability, the Department awarded Doss a pension. Boeing agreed to pay for the portion of the pension attributable to Doss' workplace injury but challenged the Department's order requiring it to pay for her postpension medical treatment. Boeing argued that the cost of this treatment should also be covered by the second injury fund. Boeing appealed to the Board. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether Boeing, as a self-insured employer, was entitled to second injury fund relief for a Doss' postpension medical costs. The Washington Supreme Court held that the plain language of the governing statutes did not allow a charge to the second injury fund for postpension medical treatment. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Boeing Co. v. Dep't of Labor & Indus." on Justia Law
Paetsch v. Spokane Dermatology Clinic, PS
Plaintiff Phyllis Paetsch was referred to Spokane Dermatology Clinic for Botox injections to smooth facial wrinkles. Paetsch had never heard of the clinic, had never been there before, and was not aware of the staff or medical reputation of the clinic. She made an appointment for treatment and was told that her appointment would be with Dan Rhoads. Spokane Dermatology Clinic is a professional services company owned solely by Dr. William Werschler. The clinic also employed another doctor as a dermatologist and three certified physician's assistants (PA-Cs), one of which was Dan Rhoads. Paetsch completed some medical history and patient profile forms, signed them, then was escorted to her appointment room. She was told "the doctor" would be in soon. Shortly thereafter, a man in scrubs entered and introduced himself as "Dan." Rhoads injected Paetsch with both Botox and Restylane. He injected Restylane into Paetsch's forehead, not knowing that the federal Food and Drug Administration did not approve the use of Restylane in the forehead as it increased the risk of necrosis. While initially pleased with the results, Paetsch later developed a headache, the symptoms of which worsened. Rhoads misdiagnosed her condition as an infection and prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to control it. These treatments were ineffective, and Paetsch's condition continued to deteriorate. Paetsch sought treatment from her primary care provider. The clinic properly diagnosed the condition as necrosis caused by the use of Restylane in the forehead; the Restylane had expanded throughout the forehead, cutting off the only flow of blood to the skin. This diagnosis was too late to treat the condition, and the provider could only scrape the dead tissue from Paetsch's face. The necrosis resulted in deep, permanent scarring to Paetsch's forehead. Paetsch filed suit against Spokane Dermatology Clinic and against Dr. Werschler personally for the failure to obtain her informed consent to treatment and for medical malpractice by Dr. Werschler and Dan Rhoads. At trial, Paetsch presented evidence that Dr. Werschler presented himself as her doctor through the use of consent forms, that he owed her a duty of care, and that he breached that duty. Paetsch also presented evidence that as a PA-C, Rhoads was an agent of the physician and that Dr. Werschler's failure to adequately supervise Rhoads breached the standard of care. After the close of evidence, the trial court granted Dr. Werschler's motion for judgment as a matter of law, dismissing Dr. Werschler from personal liability on the ground that no jury could find that he breached a duty to Paetsch under the evidence. Following this motion, Spokane Dermatology Clinic was the only remaining named defendant. Despite dismissing Dr. Werschler personally, the court instructed the jury that the clinic could be held liable for Dr. Werschler's medical negligence, as he was an employee of Spokane Dermatology Clinic. The jury was never told that Dr. Werschler was dismissed as a defendant, and the majority of the jury instructions remained unchanged. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the jury instructions allowed Paetsch to argue her theory of the case and the jury found that the defendant was not negligent. View "Paetsch v. Spokane Dermatology Clinic, PS" on Justia Law
Fergen v. Sestero
This is a consolidated case of two medical malpractice suits. In each case, the trial judge gave the jury instruction on a physician's exercise of judgment, similar to 6 Washington Practice: Washington Pattern Jury Instructions: Civil105.08 (6th ed. 2012) (WPI) was given. Both juries found in favor of the defendants and both plaintiffs appealed. After review of both cases, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's use of the exercise of judgment jury instruction. Furthermore, the Court held that evidence of consciously ruling out other diagnoses is not required; a defendant need only produce sufficient evidence of use of clinical judgment in diagnosis or treatment to satisfy a trial judge that the instruction is appropriate. "We reaffirm that this instruction is supported in Washington law and has not been shown to be incorrect or harmful." View "Fergen v. Sestero" on Justia Law
McKown v. Simon Prop. Grp., Inc.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals certified three questions to the Washington Supreme Court regarding the scope of landowners' or possessors' responsibility for harm that results when strangers commit criminal acts against invitees on business premises under Washington law. In 2005, Dominick Maldonado walked into the Tacoma Mall and opened fire on shoppers and mall employees, injuring seven people. At the time of the shooting, there were four unarmed security guards on duty and no security cameras. While the mall had an intercom system, it was inaudible and inaccessible on weekends, and the security guards were never trained to use it. Brendan McKown was one of the people injured, and brought a negligence action against the mall's lawdowner/possessor of the mall, landlord to the businesses in the mall, Simon Property Group, Inc. In his complaint, McKown alleged that Simon failed to exercise reasonable care to protect him from foreseeable criminal harm. After removing the case to federal district court, Simon moved for summary judgment, arguing Maldonado's acts were unforeseeable, and any negligence on Simon's part was not a proximate cause of McKown's injuries. The trial court denied Simon's motion, then on reconsideration, the trial court vacated its holding and granted the motion. On appeal, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged it was bound to follow this court's interpretation of Washington law but expressed uncertainty as to the scope of a landowner's duty to protect business invitees from the criminal acts of third persons. In answering the Ninth Circuit's questions, the Washington Supreme Court held that when a duty is premised on evidence of prior similar acts, a landowner or possessor owes a duty to protect business invitees from third party criminal conduct when such conduct is foreseeable based on past experience of prior similar acts. The prior acts of violence on the business premises must have been sufficiently similar in nature and location to the criminal act that injured the plaintiff, sufficiently close in time to the act in question, and sufficiently numerous to have put the business on notice that such an act was likely to occur. Based on the limited focus of the questions and the briefing, the Court did not decide the circumstances under which a duty would arise when the duty is based solely on the business's place or character. View "McKown v. Simon Prop. Grp., Inc." on Justia Law
Martin v. Dematic
Donald Martin was killed by a machine at a paper plant. His widow Nina Martin tried to sue the company that installed the machine, but that company no longer existed. Martin had difficulty discerning which company was responsible for the installation company's liability because the merger and acquisition history of the installation company was complicated. Because of that complicated history, Martin sued the incorrect company and did not realize who the responsible party was until after the statute of limitations period expired. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether Martin met the requirements of the rule that allowed such plaintiffs to add the correct defendant after the statute of limitations period expired, and whether her inability to identify the correct defendant was due to inexcusable neglect. The Court held that it was not: the record did not show that the proper defendant's identity was easily ascertainable by Martin during the limitations period. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Martin v. Dematic" on Justia Law
Powers v. WB Mobile Servs., Inc.
In 2006, a handicap access ramp platform at a residential construction site in Spanaway collapsed when plaintiff Jesse Powers used it. Powers fell while working for Awning Solutions, a company hired by Premier Communities Inc. to install an awning on a modular building. Premier also contracted with Pacific Mobile Structures Inc. to supply the ramp that collapsed. Unknown to Powers, Awning Solutions, or Premier, Pacific had subcontracted with W.B. Mobile to install the ramp that collapsed. After falling, Powers attempted to find out who "put the ramp the together," including making inquiries to Awning Solutions, but Awning Solutions thought that Pacific installed the ramp. In 2009, Powers filed a personal injury suit against Premier, Pacific, and John Doe One and John Doe Two, identifying "John Doe One" as the "builder of the handicap access ramp where the incident occurred." The statute of limitations for Powers' suit expired on June 2, 2009. Powers timely served Pacific on June 5, 2009, and Premier on June 12, 2009. Powers did not serve the John Does or W.B. Mobile at that time. Finally, over a year after filing his complaint, Powers obtained a discovery response from Pacific in October 2010 identifying W.B. Mobile as the installer of the ramp. Four months after Pacific's discovery response, in February 2011, Powers moved to amend his pleading to replace John Doe One with "W.B. Mobile." The trial court granted W.B. Mobile's motion to dismiss for failure to bring claims within the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding Powers' serving Pacific and Premier within ninety days of filing his complaint tolled the statute of limitations on Powers' claim against W.B. Mobile, and remanded for a trial on the merits. Finding no error with the Court of Appeals' judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Powers v. WB Mobile Servs., Inc." on Justia Law
Grove v. Peacehealth St. Joseph Hosp.
The plaintiff-patient presented expert testimony in this medical malpractice case establishing that following the patient's heart surgery, the surgeons in charge of the patient's postoperative recovery failed to meet their standard of care, which required appropriately monitoring the patient for "compartment syndrome," a known possible complication following such surgery, and also failed to direct members of the hospital's care team treating the patient during his recovery to so monitor. The jury found for plaintiff but the trial court overturned the verdict, reasoning that plaintiff failed to prove that the standard of care had been breached by any one individual member of the hospital's team. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court, reasoning that because plaintiff failed to prove negligence by a particular individual, "[he] failed to prove the standard of care for the relevant 'health care provider."' The primary issue in this medical malpractice case is whether the trial court properly granted the defendant hospital's postverdict motion for judgment as a matter of law. Considering the inferences and the evidence presented in plaintiff's favor, the Supreme Court concluded plaintiff met his burden under chapter 7.70 RCW to show that identified health care providers employed by the hospital failed to meet the applicable standard of care in monitoring his postoperation recovery for compartment syndrome, resulting in the untimely diagnosis of that syndrome and proximately causing injury to plaintiff by failure to timely treat that complication. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the trial court with direction to reinstate the jury verdict in favor of plaintiff. View "Grove v. Peacehealth St. Joseph Hosp." on Justia Law