Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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Weyerhaeuser Company challenged an award of industrial insurance benefits to its former employee, Roger Street, for his low back condition, a claimed occupational disease. Weyerhaeuser argued that a worker must present expert medical testimony that the disease "arises naturally" out of employment. The Court of Appeals rejected Weyerhaeuser's argument, holding that the controlling case law required Street to present expert medical testimony to show that his back condition "arose naturally" from employment. Because there was medical testimony supporting the "arises proximately" requirement and lay testimony supporting the "arises naturally" requirement, the appeals court held that Street proved his low back condition was an occupational disease and affirmed the jury award of benefits. Finding no reversible error in the Court of Appeals’ decision, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Street v. Weyerhaeuser Co." 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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In 2004, respondents Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed began a committed, romantic relationship. In 2012, the Washington legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6239, which recognized equal civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. Respondents intended to marry in September 2013. By the time he and Freed became engaged, Ingersoll had been a customer at Arlene's Flowers for at least nine years, purchasing numerous floral arrangements from Stutzman and spending an estimated several thousand dollars at her shop. Baroronelle Stutzman owned and was the president of Arlene's Flowers. Stutzman knew that Ingersoll is gay and that he had been in a relationship with Freed for several years. The two men considered Arlene's Flowers to be "[their] florist." Stutzman’s sincerely held religious beliefs included a belief that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman. Ingersoll approached Arlene's Flowers about purchasing flowers for his upcoming wedding. Stutzman told Ingersoll that she would be unable to do the flowers for his wedding because of her religious beliefs. Ingersoll did not have a chance to specify what kind of flowers or floral arrangements he was seeking before Stutzman told him that she would not serve him. They also did not discuss whether Stutzman would be asked to bring the arrangements to the wedding location or whether the flowers would be picked up from her shop. Stutzman asserts that she gave Ingersoll the name of other florists who might be willing to serve him, and that the two hugged before Ingersoll left her store. Ingersoll maintains that he walked away from that conversation "feeling very hurt and upset emotionally." The State and the couple sued, each alleging violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Stutzman defended on the grounds that the WLAD and CPA did not apply to her conduct and that, if they did, those statutes violated her state and federal constitutional rights to free speech, free exercise, and free association. The Superior Court granted summary judgment to the State and the couple, rejecting all of Stutzman's claims. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Washington v. Arlene's Flowers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Avnet Inc. was a New York corporation, headquartered in Arizona, and a major distributor of electronic components and computer technology worldwide. Avnet sold products through its headquarters in Arizona and through its many regional sales offices, including one in Redmond, Washington. Following an audit, the Washington State Department of Revenue (Department) determined that from 2003 to 2005, Avnet underreported its business and operations (B&O) tax liabilities by failing to include its national and drop-shipped sales in its tax filings. At issue in this appeal was whether national and drop-shipped sales were subject to Washington's B&O tax under the dormant commerce clause and the Department former "Rule 193." The Washington Supreme Court concluded that neither the dormant commerce clause nor Rule 193 barred the imposition of a B&O tax to Avnet's national and drop-shipped sales delivered in Washington. View "Avnet, Inc. v. Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Alsco, Inc. was a textile rental and sales company that supplied uniforms, linens, and other products to other businesses in industrial, hospitality, health care, and other fields. Alsco did not provide products or services for resale. Alsco and its employees were covered by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review turned on whether Alsco was a "retail or service establishment" (RSE) under chapter 49.46 RCW for purposes of an exemption to the overtime pay requirement. The trial court granted the employees' motion for summary judgment regarding entitlement to overtime pay, finding that Alsco was not an RSE for purposes of the overtime pay exception. In granting the employees' subsequent motion for summary judgment on the issue of calculating the amount of overtime due, the court calculated the "regular rate of pay" by dividing the total weekly compensation actually paid by 40 hours, not by hours actually worked. The Washington Supreme Court accepted direct review and reversed the trial court. The Supreme Court held that Alsco was an RSE for purposes of the overtime pay requirement. View "Cooper v. Alsco, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State of Washington sued more than 20 foreign electronics manufacturing companies (including petitioners) for price fixing. The State claimed the foreign companies conspired to fix prices by selling CRTs (cathode ray tubes) into international streams of commerce intending they be incorporated into products sold at inflated prices in large numbers in Washington State. The trial court dismissed on the pleadings, finding it did not have jurisdiction over the foreign companies. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding the State alleged sufficient minimum contacts with Washington to satisfy both the long arm statute and the due process clause. After review, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "Washington v. LG Elecs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Albert Boogaard argued that the comprehensive marine liability insurance policy he purchased from International Marine Underwriters (IMU) for his general partnership, ABCD Marine, covered bodily injuries he suffered while working as an independent contractor for Northland Services Inc. (NSI). Specifically, petitioner claimed that even as a general partner he qualified and was covered as a third party under the "insured contract" provision of the policy. IMU contended that as a general partner and insured, Boogaard was not a third party under the insured contract provision. The Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of IMU. As a general partner, Boogaard did not qualify as a third party under the "insured contract" provision in accordance with Washington partnership law. View "Int'l Marine Underwriters v. ABCD Marine, LLC" on Justia Law

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Chicago Title Insurance Company (CTIC) appointed Land Title Insurance Company as its agent for the purpose of soliciting and effectuating CTIC's insurance policies. Land Title violated the anti-inducement laws. The Supreme Court held that CTIC was responsible for Land Title's regulatory violations, pursuant to statutory and common-law theories of agency. "When the statute forbids the insurer or its agent from certain conduct, it means that the insurer may not do indirectly-through its agent-what it may not do directly." View "Chi. Title Ins. Co. v. Office of Ins. Comm'r" on Justia Law

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Newman Park, LLC was formed for the sole purpose of developing a piece of property. In 2004, it took out a loan to purchase the property at issue in this suit. In 2008, without knowledge of the other owners in Newman Park, one member went to Columbia Community Bank and requested a loan for his 95%-owned company, Trinity. Trinity had nothing to do with Newman Park, but the Bank's loan to Trinity was secured by a second deed of trust on the Newman Park property. The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the Bank, who was tricked into refinancing the property that the borrower lacked authority to pledge as security, could benefit from equitable subrogation when that Bank had no preexisting interest in the property. The property-owner/debtor argued that the Bank's lack of the preexisting interest barred it from equitable subrogation because of the "volunteer rule" which would characterize it as an intermeddler. The Court rejected the volunteer rule as a bar to equitable subrogation. The Court affirmed the appellate court which held that the defrauded Bank was entitled to be equitably subrogated as first priority lienholder. View "Columbia Cmty. Bank v. Newman Park, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case concerned attorney fees under the dissenters' rights provisions of the Washington Limited Liability Company Act (LLC Act). The issue was first considered two years ago when the Supreme Court reversed the award of attorney fees imposed on Humphrey Industries Ltd. (Humphrey) and remanded to the trial court to reconsider an award of attorney fees in Humphrey's favor. On remand, the trial court awarded Humphrey part of its fees but also reinstated part of the attorney fee award against Humphrey that the Supreme Court had reversed. Humphrey appealed directly to the Supreme Court, contending that the trial court on remand failed to follow the Supreme Court's order. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court erred by imposing fees on Humphrey. View "Humphrey Indus., Ltd. v. Clay St. Assocs." on Justia Law