Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Legal Ethics
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Stewart Title Guaranty Company hired the law firm Witherspoon, Kelley, Davenport & Toole, PS to defend its insured, Sterling Savings Bank, from a claim of lien priority on real property by a construction company. The claim was resolved in favor of the construction company, and Stewart Title sued the firm for malpractice. Witherspoon moved for summary judgment arguing it owed a duty to the client Sterling Bank and not Stewart Title, and that the alleged malfeasance (not arguing equitable subrogation) was not a viable argument in the lien priority suit. The trial court ruled against Witherspoon on the first, no-duty, ground but agreed with it on the second, no-breach, ground. The court therefore granted summary judgment in favor of Witherspoon. Stewart Title appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court in dismissing Stewart Title's malpractice case on the basis that Witherspoon owed Stewart Title no duty. The Court did not address the subrogation issue. View "Stewart Title Guar. Co. v. Sterling Sav. Bank" on Justia Law

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Jared Barton sued Korrine Linvog, her parents Thomas and Madonna Linvog, and the State. Barton reached a settlement with the Linvogs through which the Linvogs agreed to advance Barton money in exchange for his promise not to execute a judgment against them above their insurance policy limits. Neither Barton nor the Linvogs disclosed this settlement to the court or to the State. After a jury trial, Barton was awarded $3.6 million, and the trial court entered judgment against the State and the Linvogs. In the process of paying the judgment, the State discovered the agreement. The State then moved to vacate the judgment on grounds of fraud and misrepresentation. The trial court denied the motion but sanctioned Barton's attorney for failing to disclose the terms of the agreement. Barton's attorney appealed the sanction. Finding no abuse of discretion in its sanction against Barton's attorney, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barton v. Dep't of Transp." on Justia Law