Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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Thomas Clark, M.D., the Pierce County, Washington medical examiner, attempted to subpoena a video held by BNSF Railway Company of a fatal train-pedestrian collision. The parties disputed whether Dr. Clark properly began a coroner's inquest, and the extent of the subpoena power granted by the applicable statute. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether Dr. Clark exceeded his authority in issuing the subpoena. The Court held that because Dr. Clark never began an inquest, he lacked the authority to subpoena. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's issuance of a writ of prohibition. View "BNSF Ry. Co. v. Clark" on Justia Law

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This case involved statutory interpretation concerning application of the reporting requirements contained in the Washington Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA), chapter 42.17A RCW. The specific issue presented was how the FCPA reporting requirements in RCW 42.17A.255 and the definition in RCW 42.17A.005(4) ("ballot proposition") were to be applied in the context of local initiatives. In 2014, Evergreen Freedom Foundation (EFF) staff created sample municipal ordinances and ballot propositions for citizens to use to advance certain causes to their local city councils or commissions. Local residents in the cities of Sequim, Chelan, and Shelton used those samples in filing two ballot propositions in each city, one to require collective bargaining negotiation sessions to be publicly conducted and the second to prohibit union security clauses in city collective bargaining agreements. The proponents submitted the proposed measures to their local city clerks along with signatures they had gathered in support of the measures, and asked their respective city councils or commissions either to pass the measures as local ordinances or, if the councils or commissions did not agree, to alternatively place each measure on the local ballot for a vote. None of the cities passed the measures as ordinances or placed the ballot propositions on the local ballots. In response, EFF employees, who were attorneys, participated in lawsuits against each jurisdiction on behalf of the local resident proponents, each suit seeking a judicial directive to the respective city to put each measure on the local ballot. Each lawsuit ended in a superior court dismissing the case, and those decisions were not appealed. EFF did not file any campaign finance disclosure reports identifying the value of the legal services it provided to the resident proponents in support of the local ballot propositions. The State conducted an investigation and then filed a civil regulatory enforcement action against EFF alleging EFF failed to report independent expenditures it made in support of the noted local ballot propositions. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' reversal of the trial court's 12(b)(6) dismissal of the State's regulatory enforcement action under the FCPA: under the circumstances of this case, EFF's pro bono legal services were reportable. The applicable reporting statutes were not unconstitutionally vague, nor did their application here violate EFF's First Amendment rights. View "Washington v. Evergreen Freedom Found." on Justia Law

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End Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) argued that the ballot title for a King County property tax increase lacked information required by former RCW 84.55.050 (2012). The Washington Supreme Court found that RCW 29A.36.090 required ballot title objections be raised within 10 days of the public filing of that ballot title. EPIC's claim was brought nearly 4 years after the ballot title at issue in this case was filed, was was therefore deemed untimely. The Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgment of the superior court. View "End Prison Indus. Complex v. King County" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether full faith and credit required Washington courts to enforce an Illinois class action judgment by dismissing subsequent local cases based on the same facts. An Illinois medical provider brought a nationwide consumer protection class action against Liberty Mutual Insurance Company in Illinois. The suit was settled and approved by an Illinois trial court. Chan Healthcare group, a Washington provider, received reasonable notice of the suit, but neither opted out of the class nor objected to the settlement. Chan sought to collaterally challenge the Illinois judgment in Washington courts, arguing the interests of Washington class members were not adequately represented in Illinois. The Washington Supreme Court concluded Chan failed to show its due process rights were violated, thus full faith and credit required Washington courts to enforce the Illinois judgment. View "Chan Healthcare Grp. v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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At issue was the geographic scope of the permitting authority delegated to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife over hydraulic projects. A coalition of counties challenged the Department's statutory authority to regulate the construction or performance of work to occur exclusively above the ordinary high-water line. The Washington Supreme Court held the plain language of the statute at issue looked to the "reasonably certain" (not "absolutely certain") effects of hydraulic projects on state waters in determining the scope of the Department's permitting authority, and at least some projects above the ordinary high-water line were reasonably certain to affect those waters. An examination of relevant legislative history confirmed that the legislature intended the Department's regulatory jurisdiction to include projects above the ordinary high-water line that affected state waters. View "Spokane County v. Dep't of Fish & Wildlife" on Justia Law

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Proposed Initiative 27 (I-27) would have allowed King County, Washington voters to decide whether to ban public funding for community health engagement location (CHEL) sites, colloquially known as safe injection sites, and to create civil liability for any person or entity who operates a site. The King County Superior Court granted respondent Protect Public Health's ("PPH") motion for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, and enjoined King County from placing I-27 on the ballot. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether the proposed initiative was beyond the scope of the local initiative power. The Court affirmed the superior court, holding I-27 was outside the scope of local initiative power because it improperly interfered with the budgetary authority of the King City Council. View "Protect Pub. Health v. Freed" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the Washington legislature enacted legislation establishing a state health technology assessment program. Part of that legislation formed the Health Technology Clinical Committee ("HTCC") as an independent committee to judge selected medical technology and procedures by their safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and health outcomes. In 2010, the HTCC began its review of a controversial procedure - femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) syndrome hip surgery. Michael Murray sustained a hip injury while at work in August 2009. L&I allowed his claim and provided medical treatment. Murray's physician, Dr. James Bruckner, asked the Washington Department of Labor and Industries ("L&I") to authorize surgery regarding Murray's hip condition, FAI syndrome. L&I denied payment for FAI surgery because the HTCC disallowed coverage for that procedure. Dr. Bruckner performed the surgery on Murray without authorization from L&I. The FAI surgery purportedly successfully rehabilitated Murray's hip injury. Murray appealed L&I's decision denying payment for the surgery to the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (Board or BIIA), which affirmed L&I. Murray appealed to the superior court, which affirmed the Board. Murray appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the superior court. Murray then petitioned the Washington Supreme Court, which reversed. The Supreme Court "harmonized" the HTCC legislation with the Industrial Insurance Act, and in doing so, determined that applying L&I's Medical Aid Rules, HTCC determinations were one of several sources of information L&I used to make medical coverage decisions. "While HTCC determinations are given considerable weight, the Medical Aid Rules do not afford such determinations preclusive effect. Under Medical Aid Rules, L&I, not the HTCC, remains responsible for medical treatment coverage decisions. Accordingly, such Department medical coverage decisions are then subject to review before the BIIA and in superior court, pursuant to chapter 51.52 RCW." Murray's reimbursement claim to L&I was remanded for further proceedings. View "Murray v. Dep't of Labor & Indus." on Justia Law

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A trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Microsoft Corporation after Dawn Cornwell, a former employee, alleged the company retaliated against her. While working for Microsoft, Cornwell believed that her then-supervisor was discriminating against her on the basis of sex, engaging in romantic favoritism, and taking retaliatory action against her. She hired an attorney and settled the case with Microsoft.The settlement was confidential, and Cornwell was no longer required to work under her then-manager, Todd Parsons. Seven years later, Cornwell's new manager, Mary Anne Blake, asked Cornwell to mentor under another Microsoft employee. After learning that the employee reported to Parsons, Cornwell told Blake that she could not mentor under the employee. Blake asked Cornwell why, and Cornwell responded that it was because she had filed a "lawsuit" against Microsoft and could not report to Parsons. Cornwell also told Blake that the suit involved a review score issue and was confidential. Blake sought more information about the lawsuit from human resources and her direct supervisor, Nicole McKinley. Human resources did not have any information on file about the lawsuit and promised to follow up on the issue. Shortly after Cornwell told her about the suit, Blake conducted a mandatory performance review of Cornwell. Though Cornwell previously received high scores in her reviews, at this particular review, she received the lowest possible score. Human resources told Blake to not inform Cornwell of her review score "unless she asked about it." Cornwell would be laid off as part of a larger reduction in force. Cornwell did not learn about her low score until several years later when she was told that she could not be rehired at Microsoft because her final performance rating was so poor. Based on these events, Cornwell filed suit against Microsoft, alleging retaliation in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination. The Washington Supreme Court found Cornwell presented sufficient evidence to survive summary judgment on the issues of knowledge and causation, reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Cornwell v. Microsoft Corp." on Justia Law

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Scottye Miller murdered his longtime girlfriend, Tricia Patricelli, 15 days after he was released from prison on Department of Corrections (DOC)-supervised probation. Patricelli, Patricelli's family and friends, and DOC—knew that Miller had physically abused Patricelli in the past and would likely do so again if they resumed their relationship. Patricelli hid the renewed relationship from her friends, family members, and DOC. In fact, Patricelli explicitly assured DOC that she was not in a relationship with Miller, that she was moving to a place where he could not find her, and that she would call the police if she saw him. Miller's mother also verified in writing that he was sleeping at her home, though it turns out that he was actually living with Patricelli. The question this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review was whether DOC was liable for Patricelli's death, despite Patricelli's, Miller's, and his mother's active and successful efforts to prevent DOC from knowing that Miller was in contact with Patricelli. The parties agree that DOC had a duty to supervise Miller while he was on probation and that DOC was not liable unless its supervision constituted “gross negligence.” The parties disagreed on whether DOC’s actions rose to the level of gross negligence. The trial court dismissed on summary judgment, finding the DOC’s failure to take additional steps to verify Patricelli’s statement’s or Miller’s housing arrangements could qualify as gross negligence. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court's order granting summary judgment for DOC. Tricia Patricelli’s Estate failed to produce sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact on the question of gross negligence. View "Harper v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The Washington Supreme Court was presented an issue of first impression: whether Washington should adopt the "apparent manufacturer" doctrine for common law product liability claims predating the 1981 product liability and tort reform act (WPLA). By this opinion, the Court joined the clear majority of states that formally adopted the apparent manufacturer doctrine. Applying that doctrine to the particular facts of this case, the Court held genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether a reasonable consumer could have believed Pfizer was a manufacturer of asbestos products that caused Vernon Rublee's illness and death. The Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Rublee v. Carrier Corp." on Justia Law