Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court
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Petitioner Ron Gipson challenged Snohomish County’s response to a records request under Washington’s Public Records Act. Gipson requested records that related to allegations of workplace sexual harassment against him. At the time of his request, Gipson was under investigation for those allegations. Due to the voluminous request, Snohomish County responded by producing the documents in five installments over the course of several months, but asserted the active and ongoing investigation exemption under the Act for each installment. Gipson argued treating each installment with the exemption was improper under the Act. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed, finding Snohomish County properly applied the active-and-ongoing-investigation exemption and affirmed. View "Gipson v. Snohomish County" on Justia Law

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While driving his truck, Moun Keodalah and an uninsured motorcyclist collided. After Keodalah stopped at a stop sign and began to cross the street, the motorcyclist struck Keodalah's truck. The collision killed the motorcyclist and injured Keodalah. Keodalah's insurance policy with Allstate Insurance Company included underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Keodalah requested Allstate pay him his UIM policy limit of $25,000. Allstate refused, offering $1,600 based on its assessment Keodalah was 70% at fault for the accident. After Keodalah asked Allstate to explain its evaluation, Allstate increased its offer to $5,000. Keodalah sued Allstate asserting a UIM claim. The ultimate issue before the Washington Supreme Court in this case was whether RCW 48.01.030 provided a basis for an insured's bad faith and Consumer Protection Act claims against an insurance company's claims adjuster. The Supreme Court held that such claims were not available, and reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Keodalah v. Allstate Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession. In 2005 and 2007, Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle purchased for residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) from investment bank Credit Suisse. Federal Home Loan also bought certificates from Barclays Bank. In 2009, Federal Home Loan separately brought suit under the Securities Act against Credit Suisse and Barclays. Federal Home Loan alleged Credit Suisse and Barclays each had made untrue or misleading statements relating to the certificates it purchased. n each case, the investment banks moved for summary judgment, which was granted. Federal Home Loan sought review of each case, arguing that reliance on the statements wasn't an element under the Act. The Washington Supreme Court concurred and concluded a plaintiff need not prove reliance under the Act. the Court of Appeals was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Fed. Home Loan Bank of Seattle v. Credit Suisse Sec. (USA) LLC" on Justia Law

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Pepper and Clarice Kirkendoll hired loggers to harvest their trees. But Pepper Kirkendoll misrepresented the boundaries of his and Clarice's land, and the loggers harvested trees belonging to the neighbors, Jerry Porter and Karen Zimmer. Porter and Zimmer sued the Kirkendolls and the loggers. The loggers settled with Porter and Zimmer and assigned to them their indemnity and contribution claims against the Kirkendolls as part of that settlement. The remaining parties then filed separate motions for summary judgment. The trial court dismissed the case, ruling that the settlement released the Kirkendolls from liability and that Porter and Zimmer had no valid contribution or indemnity claims. The Court of Appeals reversed, making a series of holdings. It held that the settlement did not release the Kirkendolls from potential liability for their own tort of directing the timber trespass. It held that Porter and Zimmer could proceed with their assigned indemnity claims, but not with their assigned contribution claims. And it held that Porter and Zimmer were precluded from recovering under the waste statute because relief was available under the timber trespass statute. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's holdings that the settlement did not release the Kirkendolls from liability and that Porter and Zimmer were precluded from recovering under the waste statute. But the Court reversed the appellate court's holding on the indemnity and contribution claims. View "Porter v. Kirkendoll" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Petitioner Randall Hoffman submitted a public records request to the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office seeking police reports referencing an individual, Erin Schnebly. The clerk at the sheriff’s office did not locate any photos or videos, though the office’s electronic case management system indicted there were 95 photographs and 2 videos related to responsive reports. The clerk, telephoning Hoffman for clarification, stated she could not find any involvement by Hoffman in the incidents, and had not found any photos or videos. Based on an erroneous interpretation of RCW 42.56.050 which the parties agreed was indeed, erroneous, the clerk told Hoffman that because he was not a party involved in the reports, she could not release a majority of the documents found. Hoffman sued respondents Kittitas County and the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office (hereinafter collectively County), alleging that the clerk’s initial response violated the Public Records Act. Hoffman argued the trial court's finding that the agency respondents lacked bad faith was reviewable de novo. But the Washington Supreme Court reviewed for abuse of discretion when imposing a penalty pursuant to the PRA, in line with the prevailing case law. The Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing a $15,498 penalty. View "Hoffman v. Kittitas County" on Justia Law

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This case concerned whether the city of Tacoma (City) could be held liable for damages for imposing an unlawful condition on a building permit. The Church of the Divine submitted an application to the City to build a parsonage on property it owned. A single-family residence had previously been located on the property, but it had been demolished in 2012. City staff reviewed the permit application and placed a number of conditions on it, including, at issue here, a requirement that the Church dedicate a 30-foot-wide strip of land for right-of-way improvements to a street abutting the property. While the existing street was generally 60 feet wide in other areas, it was 30 feet wide next to the Church's property. This lack of uniformity had existed for around 100 years. The Church challenged the permit conditions, and the City eventually removed most of them but kept the requirement for a dedication. The Church appealed the decision to the City's hearing examiner, and the hearing examiner granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The Church appealed under the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), in which it challenged the hearing examiner's decision and also sought damages under RCW 64.40.020. In addressing the propriety of the dedication, the court confined its review to the administrative record that had been before the hearing examiner and acknowledged that, in that record, the stated purpose by the City for imposing the dedication requirement was to create a uniform street. The court held that this reason was insufficient to justify the requirement and reversed the hearing examiner, invalidating the condition. A trial court denied the Church’s request for damages and the Church appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court. The Washington Supreme Court revered however, finding that the City's subjective belief that the dedication was lawful did not determine what it objectively should reasonably have known. The Court of Appeals erred in reasoning otherwise. The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "Church of the Divine Earth v. City of Tacoma" on Justia Law

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Two Tonasket voters petitioned to recall City Council member Jill Ritter from office. The petition made six allegations relating to improper influence over a police investigation of a relative’s son, improperly reviewing police personnel records, certain public statements made about Tonasket police, and conspiracy to disband the police force. The superior court determined all allegations were insufficient to warrant a recall election; finding no reversible error, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed that decision. View "In re Recall of Ritter" on Justia Law

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Two Tonasket voters petitioned to recall City Council member Christia “Teagan” Levine from office. The petition alleged Levin committed five violations relating to certain city personnel actions, conspiracy to remove the City Attorney and cause the Mayor to resign as part of an illegal quorum, withholding public records, and conspiring to disband the city police force. After a hearing, the trial court dismissed all charges, finding them factually and legally insufficient to sustain further action. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re Recall of Levine" on Justia Law

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A recall petition was filed against the Mayor and three Cathlamet council members; charges stemmed from Cathlamet’s purchase of a parcel of property at 20 Butler street. The petition alleged a violation of the Washington Constitution as a gift of public funds to the seller of the Butler Street property, Bernadette Goodroe. One additional charge against one town counselor alleged violation of RCW 42.23.070(2), prohibiting municipal officials from giving or receiving gifts related to their official capacities. The Washington Supreme Court determined the charges in the recall petition was legally insufficient, because acquisition of real property is a fundamental government purpose and discretionary act that was not manifestly unreasonable under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "In re Recall of Burnham" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Freedom Foundation filed a public records request for documents relating to union organizing by several University of Washington (UW) faculty members. The UW asked one of the faculty to search his e-mail accounts for responsive records, and after reviewing those records, gave notice that it intended to release many of them in the absence of an injunction. Respondent Service Employees International Union 925 sued to enjoin release of any union-related records, arguing they were not "public records" under 42.56 RCW, the Washington Public Records Act. The trial court granted the injunction and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Foundation petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for review, arguing that the "scope of employment test" employed by the trial court and affirmed on appeal, only applied to records stored on an employee's personal device, and should not have been extended to records on public agencies' e-mail servers. The Supreme Court agreed, reversed and remanded. View "Serv. Emps. Int'l Union Local 925 v. Univ. of Wash." on Justia Law