Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Hendrickson v. Moses Lake Sch. Dist.
Heidi Hendrickson filed suit against the Moses Lake School District to recover for injuries she suffered while operating a table saw in a woodshop class at Moses Lake High School. The jury found the District was negligent, but that its negligence was not a proximate cause of Hendrickson's injuries. Hendrickson appealed, arguing the trial court erred in instructing the jury that the District owed a her a duty of ordinary care instead of a heightened duty. The Court of Appeals agreed with Hendrickson and reversed, remanding for a new trial. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court, however, finding school districts were subject to an ordinary duty of care. As a result, the Supreme Court reinstated the jury's verdict. View "Hendrickson v. Moses Lake Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
H.B.H. v. Washington
Former foster children brought a case against the Department of Social and Health Service (DSHS) alleging negligence in failing to protect them from the tortious or criminal acts of their foster (and later, adoptive) parents. At the close of evidence, the trial court granted the Department's CR 50 motion and dismissed the children's claims of negligence concerning the preadoption-foster care period. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding DSHS owed them a common law duty to protect dependent foster children from foreseeable harm based on the special relationship between DSHS and such children. The Washington Supreme Court agreed with this reasoning, and remanded for trial on the children's preadoption claims. View "H.B.H. v. Washington" on Justia Law
Maytown Sand & Gravel, LLC v. Thurston County
The central issue in this case was whether the administrative exhaustion rule found in the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) applies to all tort claims that arise during the land use decision-making process. In late 2009, Maytown purchased real property in Thurston County, Washington from the Port of Tacoma (Port) for the express purpose of operating a mine. The property came with an approved 20-year special use permit (permit) from Thurston County (County) for mining gravel. Maytown and the Port claimed the County's board of commissioners (Board) succumbed to political pressure from opponents to the mine and directed the County's Resource Stewardship Department to impose unnecessary procedural hurdles meant to obstruct and stall the mining operation. Because the property had been designated by the County as "mineral land of long term commercial significance," the County was obligated to balance the protection of the mineral land with the protection of critical areas. Other issues raised by this case centered on whether the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding of a substantive due process violation 42 U.S.C. 1983; whether an aggrieved party can recover prelitigation, administrative fora attorney fees intentionally caused by the tortfeasor under a tortious interference claim; and, whether the Court of Appeals erred in awarding a request under RAP 18.1(b) for appellate attorney fees that was not made in a separate section devoted solely to that request. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals on all but the third issue raised: the tortious interference claims pled in this case did not authorize recovery of prelitigation, administrative fora attorney fees. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed in part, and reversed in part. View "Maytown Sand & Gravel, LLC v. Thurston County" on Justia Law
Anderson v. Soap Lake Sch. Dist.
Sheila Rosenberg was invited to the home of Igor Lukashevich, her high school basketball coach. Lukashevich drank shots of vodka with Rosenberg, then shortly after leaving Lukashevich's home, Rosenberg was killed along with her boyfriend in a car accident. Michele Anderson, Rosenberg's mother sued Lukashevich's employer Soap Lake School District, but the trial court determined she failed to present sufficient evidence to support her claims. Therefore, the Washington Supreme Court concluded the trial court properly granted summary judgment to the school district. View "Anderson v. Soap Lake Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Afoa v. Port of Seattle
Respondent-petitioner Brandon Afoa was severely injured in an accident while working at the Port of Seattle for a cargo company. He sued the Port on a theory that the Port retained sufficient control over his work to have a duty to provide him a safe place to work. The Port argued in its defense that several airlines that were not parties to the lawsuit were at fault. A jury found Afoa suffered $40 million in damages and apportioned fault between him, the Port and the airlines. Notwithstanding Washington tort law in which tortfeasors are usually liable only for their proportionate share of the damages they cause, Aofa argued the Port was liable for both its portion and the airlines' portion. The Washington Supreme Court held RCW 4.22.070(1)(a) preserved joint and several liability when a defendant is vicariously liable for another's fault, but the jury's findings did not support the conclusion that the Port was vicariously liable for the airlines' fault. View "Afoa v. Port of Seattle" on Justia Law
Reyes v. Yakima Health Dist.
Jose Reyes died after a course of treatment for tuberculosis. Judith Reyes alleged that her husband did not have tuberculosis and that the treatment prescribed to him for that disease caused him fatal liver damage due to an undiagnosed, underlying, liver disease. Judith alleged that the Yakima Health District and Christopher Spitters, M.D., were negligent in treating Jose. A year after filing suit, her expert witness submitted an affidavit alleging as much. But because allegations of misdiagnosis without deviation from the proper standard of care was not the basis for liability, the Washington Supreme Court held that the expert witness' affidavit was insufficient to create a genuine issue of material face, and affirmed the Court of Appeals. "In so holding, we do not require talismanic words, but the words... the want of the right word makes lightning from lightening bugs." View "Reyes v. Yakima Health Dist." on Justia Law
Lockner v. Pierce County
This case asked the Washington Supreme Court to clarify the scope of Washington's recreational use immunity statute, RCW 4.24.210. Margie Lockner was injured when she fell from her bicycle on a trail maintained by Pierce County (County). Lockner sued the County for negligence. Finding that recreational use immunity precluded her suit because the unintentional injury happened on land open to the public for recreational use without a fee, the trial court dismissed Lockner's claim on summary judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed, mistakenly relying on the dissent in the Supreme Court's opinion in Camicia v. Howard S. Wright Constr. Co., 317 P.3d 987 (2014), holding that a question of fact remained as to whether the trail was open to the public "solely" for recreational use. The Supreme Court reversed, finding RCW 4.24.210 immunity did not require sole recreational use before conferring immunity to landowners, and was not limited to premises liability claims. View "Lockner v. Pierce County" on Justia Law
Gilmore v. Jefferson County Pub. Transp. Benefit Area
In 2008, a Jefferson County Public Transportation Benefit area vehicle collided with Michael Gilmore's vehicle. Gilmore brought a personal jury lawsuit against Jefferson Transit for injuries he allegedly sustained in that collision. At trial, he was awarded $1.2 million for past and future economic losses. Jefferson Transit appealed, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in admitting certain evidence, barring certain evidence, and in determining Gilmore's counsel's closing arguments did not require a new trial. The Court of Appeals reversed as to all issues Jefferson Transit raised. The Washington Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion with respect to the evidence admitted at trial, "[w]e will not disturb the trial court's decision unless 'such a feeling of prejudice [has] been engendered or located in the minds of the jury as to prevent a litigant from having a fair trial." With respect to closing arguments, the Supreme Court nothing in the record suggested it was incurably prejudicial. "By rationalizing Gilmore's counsel's statements as 'technique' and failing to object after being given several opportunities, it is clear that Jefferson Transit's counsel perceived no error and was 'gambling on the verdict.'" View "Gilmore v. Jefferson County Pub. Transp. Benefit Area" on Justia Law
Carrera v. Olmstead
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
Street v. Weyerhaeuser Co.
Weyerhaeuser Company challenged an award of industrial insurance benefits to its former employee, Roger Street, for his low back condition, a claimed occupational disease. Weyerhaeuser argued that a worker must present expert medical testimony that the disease "arises naturally" out of employment. The Court of Appeals rejected Weyerhaeuser's argument, holding that the controlling case law required Street to present expert medical testimony to show that his back condition "arose naturally" from employment. Because there was medical testimony supporting the "arises proximately" requirement and lay testimony supporting the "arises naturally" requirement, the appeals court held that Street proved his low back condition was an occupational disease and affirmed the jury award of benefits. Finding no reversible error in the Court of Appeals’ decision, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Street v. Weyerhaeuser Co." on Justia Law