HeadsUp For Washington State – November 14, 2013, Opinions


Thursday, November 14, 2013 


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The Supreme Court of Washington filed 4 new opinions and Division Three of the Court of Appeals filed 2 new published opinions on Thursday, November 14, 2013: 

Supreme Court

1. Donatelli v. D.R. Strong Consulting Engineers, Inc.

No. 86590-6

(November 14, 2013)

2013 Wash. LEXIS 934 

Areas: BUSINESS AND COMMERCIAL LAW

            COURTS

            PERSONAL INJURY AND INSURANCE LAW 

Brief: The independent duty doctrine is an analytical framework that is used to determine whether one party to a contract can bring tort claims against another party to the contract. The independent duty doctrine allows a plaintiff to pursue a tort claim against a defendant if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant's breach of a tort duty arises independently of the terms of the contract. To determine whether a duty arises independently of a contract, a court must first know what duties have been assumed by the parties within the contract. Because there were genuine issues of material fact regarding the scope of the defendant’s contractual duties to the plaintiffs, the independent duty doctrine could not be applied to say, one way or the other, whether the defendant had a duty independent of the contract to avoid professional negligence. However, the defendant’s duty to avoid misrepresentations that induced the plaintiff to contract with the defendant in the first place did arise independently of any contract the parties might have agreed to. The plaintiffs' negligence claims could not simply be dismissed on the narrow legal grounds argued by the defendant. 

 

2. McDevitt v. Harborview Medical Center

No. 85367-3

(November 14, 2013)

2013 Wash. LEXIS 931 

Areas: COURTS

           PERSONAL INJURY AND INSURANCE LAW 

Brief: Recognizing the express constitutional authority in Const. article II, section 26 for the legislature to direct “in what manner, and in what courts, suit may be brought against the state,” the court concluded that the 90 day presuit notice requirement of former RCW 7.70.100(1) (2006) is constitutional as applied against the State on the grounds that the legislature may establish conditions precedent, including presuit notice requirements. While recognizing the statutory waiver of sovereign immunity, the court has upheld similar procedural requirements for suit against the State (e.g., those codified in former RCW 4.92.110 (1977) and former RCW 4.96.020(4) (1993)). Thus, the presuit notice requirement of former RCW 7.70.100(1) as applied to the State is a constitutionally valid statutory precondition for suit against the State because it was adopted by the legislature as provided in article II, section 26 of the Washington Constitution. 

 

3. In re Personal Restraint of Gronquist

No. 87666-5

(November 14, 2013)

2013 Wash. LEXIS 929 

Areas: COURTS

            CRIMINAL LAW 

Brief: By statute, appellate costs awardable to the State are limited to expenses specifically incurred by the state in prosecuting or defending an appeal or collateral attack from a criminal conviction or sentence. RCW 10.73.160(2). The petitioner’s challenge to the department's administrative disciplinary action was not an appeal from or a collateral attack on a criminal conviction or sentence. It therefore falls outside the plain statutory limitation on appellate costs allowed to the State. 

 

4. State v. Monfort

No. 88522-2

(November 14, 2013)

2013 Wash. LEXIS 930 

Areas: CRIMINAL LAW 

Brief: A county prosecutor may consider the facts of the crime when deciding whether to file a death penalty notice, and the judiciary may review only whether a prosecutor has a “reason to believe that there are not sufficient mitigating circumstances” under RCW 10.95.040(1).

 

Court of Appeals:

 

1. In re Dependency of A.P.

No. 30925-8

(November 14, 2013)

2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 2659 

Areas: COURTS

            DOMESTIC RELATIONS AND FAMILY LAW

            GOVERNMENT RELATIONS AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW 

Brief: Attorney fees were not awardable to the parent in the parental rights termination proceeding under the equal access to justice act because a parental rights termination suit does not comprise “judicial review.” 

 

2. In re Estate of Dormaier

No. 30864-2

(November 14, 2013)

2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 2661 

Areas: COURTS

            PERSONAL INJURY AND INSURANCE LAW 

Brief: In an action alleging medical malpractice wrongful death in which a verdict was returned in favor of the plaintiffs, the defendant appealed, contending that the trial court erred by (1) instructing the jury on a medical patient's lost chance of survival; (2) ruling res judicata precluded them from allocating fault to the physicians; (3) denying their motion for judgment as a matter of law; (4) denying their request for entry of judgment in their favor upon the special verdict; and (5) denying their request for a judgment award limited to the estate's damages or, alternatively, 70 percent of both plaintiffs’' damages. Rejecting all of the defendants’ contentions, the appellate court affirmed.

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