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Fabian Arredondo appealed his accomplice liability convictions of one count of second degree murder and three counts of first degree assault. A jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that Arredondo, a gang member, drove a vehicle from which his cousin and fellow member, Rudy Madrigal, fired gunshots into a vehicle occupied by alleged rival gang members. One shot struck the driver, Ladislado Avila, in the head, and he later died at the hospital as a result of his gunshot wound. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to address two issues: (1) the trial court allowed the State to introduce ER 404(b) evidence linking Arredondo to an uncharged 2009 drive-by shooting; and (2) the trial court barred Arredondo from cross-examining the State's key witness, Maurice Simon, about Simon's past mental health diagnoses, as well as past alcohol and drug use. Simon would later testify that Arredondo admitted his role in the shooting to him while they shared a jail cell. In neither instance did the Supreme Court find the trial court committed reversible error. View "Washington v. Arredondo" on Justia Law

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The Washington Supreme Court reaffirmed precedent that a trial court must consider whether such joinder will result in undue prejudice to the defendant. If it will, joinder is not permissible. The State charged Charles Bluford with one count of first degree robbery and one count of indecent liberties. The State later charged Bluford in a separate information with five more first degree robberies involving five new victims. Before trial, the State moved to join the two robberies accompanied by sexual offenses to the other five robberies, while Bluford moved to sever the five robberies from each other. The Court of Appeals held: (1) the trial court properly allowed joinder; (2) Bluford did not invite the trial court to erroneously deny his request for a lesser-included offense instruction on the indecent liberties charge; and (3) the State had not proved Bluford's prior New Jersey conviction for second degree robbery was factually or legally comparable to a most serious offense in Washington, so Bluford's persistent offender sentence was erroneously imposed. The Washington Supreme Court overruled certain Court of Appeals opinions that have departed from precedent, reversed Bluford's convictions, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Washington v. Bluford" 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 principal issue in this case was whether taxpayers could bring federal or state tort claims to challenge tax assessments, or instead must rely on the normal state tax appeals process. The taxpayers here are trucking companies that were assessed unemployment taxes after the Washington State Employment Security Department audited and reclassified their employment relationship with owner-operators who owned and leased out their own trucking equipment. The trucking companies, joined by their trade organization, Washington Trucking Associations, brought this suit asserting a civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and a state common law claim for tortious interference with business expectancies. The superior court dismissed the suit, holding that the trucking companies must challenge the tax assessments through the state tax appeals process. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding that the comity principle precluded the section 1983 claim only "to the extent that [Washington Trucking Associations] and the [trucking companies] seek damages based on the amounts of the assessments, but not to the extent that they seek damages independent of the assessment amounts." The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the superior court's dismissal of both the federal and state claims. View "Wash. Trucking Ass'ns v. Emp't Sec. Dep't" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the applicability of a broad, absolute insurance pollution exclusion clause to a claim based on negligent installation of a hot water heater that led to the release of toxic levels of carbon monoxide in a residential home. Zhaoyun "Julia" Xia purchased a new home constructed by Issaquah Highlands 48 LLC. Issaquah Highlands carried a policy of commercial general liability insurance through ProBuilders. Soon after moving into her home, Xia began to feel ill. A service technician from Puget Sound Energy investigated Xia's home and discovered that an exhaust vent attached to the hot water heater had not been installed correctly and was discharging carbon monoxide directly into the confines of the basement room. The claims administrator for ProBuilders, NationsBuilders Insurance Services Inc. (NBIS), mailed a letter to Xia indicating that coverage was not available under the Issaquah Highlands policy. As a basis for its declination of coverage, NBIS rested on two exclusions under the policy: a pollution exclusion and a townhouse exclusion. NBIS refused to either defend or indemnify Issaquah Highlands for Xia's loss. When a nonpolluting event that was a covered occurrence causes toxic pollution to be released, resulting in damages, the Washington Supreme Court believed the only principled way for determining whether the damages are covered or not was to undertake an efficient proximate cause analysis. Under the facts presented here, the Court found ProBuilders Specialty Insurance Co. correctly identified the existence of an excluded polluting occurrence under the unambiguous language of its policy. However, it ignored the existence of a covered occurrence negligent installation-that was the efficient proximate cause of the claimed loss. Accordingly, coverage for this loss existed under the policy, and ProBuilders's refusal to defend its insured was in bad faith. View "Xia v. Probuilders Specialty Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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David Woodlyn cashed a series of blank checks written by Dora Kjellerson, an elderly woman suffering from dementia. The State charged Woodlyn with theft in the second degree, an alternative means crime. The jury's "to convict" instruction required the jury to unanimously agree on Woodlyn's guilt-but not on how he committed the crime. The jury returned a general verdict of guilty. Woodlyn appealed, arguing the general verdict violated his right to jury unanimity under article I, section 21 of the Washington constitution insofar as the evidence was insufficient to support conviction under the "wrongfully obtained" alternative. The Court of Appeals agreed that the evidence of this means was insufficient, but nonetheless affirmed, holding that any error was harmless. The court reasoned that the absence of evidence of the theft by taking alternative reasonably showed that the jury's verdict rested on the theft by deception alternative. The Washington Supreme Court rejected the Court of Appeals reasoning, finding the State failed to support one or more alternative means did not establish that the jury relied unanimously on another, supported alternative. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals in result because it concluded the evidence before the jury was sufficient to support both alternative means of second degree theft. View "Washington v. Woodlyn" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, petitioners were each charged with four serious violent offenses-one count of conspiracy to commit assault (an anticipatory crime) and three substantive crimes of assault. A divided appellate panel held that the anticipatory crime did not have a seriousness level at all, and hence that anticipatory crime could not form the basis for consecutive sentencing calculations under RCW 9.94A.589(1)(b). Instead it directed the sentencing court to calculate the sentence using the seriousness level and standard range for one of petitioners' substantive crimes-an approach that resulted in longer sentences. The majority's approach in “Washington v. Weatherwax” conflicted with another appellate court panel. In “Washington v. Breaux,” the appellate court held that RCW 9.94A.589(1 )(b) was ambiguous in cases where multiple serious violent offenses had the same seriousness level but produced different length sentences; it therefore held that the rule of lenity required courts facing that situation to start their sentencing calculations using the serious violent offense that yields the shorter overall sentence. The Supreme Court accepted review to resolve this conflict. The Court held that for purposes of RCW 9.94A.589(1)(b), anticipatory offenses carry the same seriousness level as their completed offenses. Furthermore, the Court held that when an anticipatory offense and a completed offense carrying the same seriousness level might both form the basis for calculating consecutive sentences under RCW 9.94A.589(1 )(b), the sentencing court must start its calculations with the offense that produces the lower overall sentence. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for resentencing using the approach taken by the Court of Appeals in “Breaux.” View "Washington v. Weatherwax" on Justia Law

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Rachelle and Charles Black were married for nearly 20 years and had three sons. They raised their children in a conservative Christian church and sent them to private, Christian schools. In 2011, Rachelle told Charles that she was lesbian, and the parties divorces shortly thereafter. In the order of dissolution, the trial court designated Charles as the primary residential parent. The final parenting plan also awarded Charles sole decision-making authority regarding the children's education and religious upbringing. The record showed that the trial court considered Rachelle's sexual orientation as a factor when it fashioned the final parenting plan. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found improper bias influenced the proceedings. “This bias casts doubt on the trial court's entire ruling, and we are not confident the trial court ensured a fair proceeding by maintaining a neutral attitude regarding Rachelle's sexual orientation. Accordingly, we reverse.” View "In re Marriage of Black" 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

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This case stemmed from a dispute over the regulatory schemes of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the energy facilities site locations act (EFSLA), and how those schemes applied to a lease agreement between respondents, the Port of Vancouver USA and its board of commissioners (Port), and Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies (Tesoro). The lease agreement permitted Tesoro to construct a petroleum based energy facility on the Port's property. The agreement remained contingent on review by, and certification from, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC), the primary decision-making authority in the field of energy facilities siting and regulation under EFSLA. EFSLA incorporated by reference numerous regulations from SEPA, including WAC 197-11-714(3) and -070(1)(b) which precluded agencies "with jurisdiction" from taking actions that would "[l]imit the choice of reasonable alternatives" prior to the issuance of an environmental impact statement (EIS). The Port entered into the lease agreement with Tesoro prior to EFSEC's issuance of an EIS. Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and Northwest Environmental Defense Center (collectively, “Riverkeeper”) sued the Port, alleging, among other things, that the lease agreement limited the choice of reasonable alternatives available to the Port, thereby violating SEPA. The trial court summarily dismissed Riverkeeper's SEPA claims in favor of the Port, holding that the contingencies contained within the lease preserved reasonable alternatives available to the Port. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals, finding the Port's lease with Tesoro did not violate SEPA. However, the Court affirmed only the outcome; the Court adopted the trial court’s reasoning and affirmed. View "Columbia Riverkeeper v. Port of Vancouver USA" on Justia Law