HeadsUp for Washington State: Court Opinions From Thursday, April 24, 2014

HeadsUp for Washington State: Court Opinions From Thursday, April 24, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014 

To view the full text of these opinions, please visit: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.recent or Lexis subscribers may use the links below to access the cases on either lexis.com or Lexis Advance. 

The Supreme Court of Washington did not file any new opinions; Division Two of the Court of Appeals filed 2 new published opinions and ordered the publication of 1 additional opinion; and Division Three filed 1 new published opinion on Thursday, April 24, 2014:

Division Two:

1. Clark County Fire District No. 5 v. Bullivant Houser Bailey PC
No. 42864-4
(April 24, 2014)
2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 977 (lexis.com)

2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 977 (Lexis Advance)


Brief: Under Stewart Title Guaranty Co. v. Sterling Savings Bank, 178 Wn.2d 561 (2013), the trial court correctly ruled that the insurer did not have standing to sue the attorney and his law firm for professional malpractice because the attorney’s representation of the fire district was not intended for the insurer’s benefit. With regard to the fire district’s claim for legal negligence, all of the conduct at issue involved the exercise of the attorney's professional judgment. Applying the “attorney judgment rule,” the court held that (1) the fire district could avoid summary judgment only if it came forward with sufficient evidence to show that the attorney’s judgment decisions were not within the range of reasonable alternatives from the perspective of a reasonable, careful, and prudent attorney in Washington or that the decisions themselves resulted from negligent conduct and (2) the opinions of the fire district’s experts created questions of fact regarding most of the fire district’s allegations. Accordingly, the trial court’s grant of summary judgment dismissal of the insurer’s claims was affirmed but the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the attorney on all of the fire district’s claims, except for the failure to object to the improper closing argument and the failure to file an appropriate motion in limine regarding the subject of the improper argument, was reversed.

2. In re Welfare of L.R.
No. 44595-6 
(April 24, 2014)
2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 978 (lexis.com)

2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 978 (Lexis Advance)


Brief: Although conducting a parental rights termination hearing without the parent present raises due process concerns, the trial court did not violate the mother’s due process rights under the facts of this case and in light of the procedural safeguards the trial court implemented.

2. In re Det. of Leck
No. 42573-4 
(filed March 4, 2014; ordered published April 24, 2014)
2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 466 (lexis.com)

2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 466 (Lexis Advance)


Brief: The State had authority to file the sexually violent predator commitment petition under either the 2008 or 2009 versions of the commitment law, as explained in In re Detention of Durbin, 160 Wn. App. 414 (2011). The jury instruction alleging that the sex offender suffered from a personality disorder did not constitute manifest constitutional error, thus the offender could not raise the issue for the first time on appeal. Also, the trial court did not err by refusing to continue the reconsideration hearing addressing an issue of law and the State's expert appropriately referred to the evidence supporting his opinion. The commitment order was therefore affirmed.

Division Three:

Peyton Building, LLC v. Niko’s Gourmet Inc.
No. 30840-5 
(April 24, 2014)
2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 976 (lexis.com)

2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 978 (Lexis Advance)


Brief: Defendant tenant and defendant personal guarantors appealed the trial court’s summary judgment granting breach of lease damages to the plaintiff. The plaintiff was the successor in interest to the leased property by a purchase agreement but was not an assignee of the lease or guarantee. Even so, the court enforced the tenant’s relevant lease obligations and the guarantors’ personal guarantee in the plaintiff’s favor on summary judgment. The defendants contended the trial court erred by rejecting their challenges to the plaintiff’s standing and status as real party in interest and by deciding that no genuine  issue of material fact remained regarding the amount of the tenant’s default. The defendants also contested the amount, if any, to credit or pay the tenant for the value of personal property the plaintiff retained under its landlord’s lien. Considering the plaintiff’s reversionary estate in the leased property, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court correctly acknowledged the plaintiff’s status as de facto landlord. But, because the plaintiff did not receive a contractual assignment of rights for the lease or guarantee, it may enforce solely those lease covenants running with the land. While the tenant’s relevant lease obligations ran with the land, the guarantors’ personal guarantee did not. For this reason, the trial court erred by enforcing the guarantee in the plaintiff’s favor on summary judgment. Genuine issues of material fact remained regarding both the amount of unpaid rent and the value of retained personal property. Therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the plaintiff on the rent default and the landlord’s lien amounts.

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