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
In 2007, the legislature passed, and the voters ratified, the Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA), RCW 48.30.015. IFCA gave insureds a new cause of action against insurers who unreasonably deny coverage or benefits. IFCA also directed courts to grant attorney fees and authorizes courts to award triple damages if the insurer either acts unreasonably or violates certain insurance regulations. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether IFCA also created a new and independent private cause of action for violation of these regulations in the absence of any unreasonable denial of coverage or benefits. The Court concluded it did not and affirmed. View "Perez-Crisantos v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co." on Justia Law
Historically, sovereigns were not subject to statutes of limitations without their explicit consent. Washington State consented to some statutes of limitations but not to others. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review in this case was whether Washington consented to a statute of limitations that would bar this antitrust suit filed by the Washington State attorney general on behalf of the State against more than 20 foreign electronics manufacturing companies. The State alleged that between at least March 1, 1995, through at least November 25, 2007, the defendants violated RCW 19.86.030, which prohibited any "contract, combination ... or conspiracy in restraint of trade or commerce," by agreeing to raise prices and agreeing on production levels in the market for CRTs (cathode ray tubes) used in televisions and computer monitors before the advent of LCD (liquid crystal display) panels and plasma display technologies. Due to this unlawful conspiracy, the State alleges, Washington consumers and the State of Washington itself paid supracompetitive prices for CRT products. Ten of the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the claims were time barred because Washington's Consumer Protection Act (CPA) must be brought within four years. The State responded that RCW 19.86.120's statute of limitations did not apply to its claims under RCW 19.86.080. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the State's action for injunctive relief and restitution was exempt from the statute of limitations in RCW 19.86.120 and from the general statutes of limitations in chapter 4.16 RCW. View "Washington v. LG Elecs., Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Consumer Law, Government & Administrative Law, Tax Law, Washington Supreme Court
Plaintiff Laura Jordan defaulted on a mortgage payment, and one day after returning home from work, she could not enter the house: the locks had been changed without warning. Nationstar Mortgage left a notice on the house that she needed to contact them to retrieve her belongings. Jordan removed those belongings the next day, and did not return. The house was secured by a deed of trust that contained provisions that allowed Nationstar to enter her home upon default without providing any notice. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether those provisions conflicted with Washington law. Jordan represented a class action proceeding in federal court, which certified two questions of Washington law: (1) whether the deed of trust provisions conflicted with a Washington law that prohibited a lender from taking possession of property prior to foreclosure; and (2) whether Washington's statutory receivership scheme was the exclusive remedy by which a lender may gain access to the property. The Washington Supreme Court held that the deed of trust provisions in this case conflicted with Washington law because they allowed Nationstar to take possession of the property after default. Furthermore, the Court held that nothing in Washington law established the receivership statutes as an exclusive remedy. View "Jordan v. Nationstar Mortg., LLC" on Justia Law
Plaintiff in this putative class action was a Texas resident. Plaintiff alleged she received deceptive debt collection letters from defendant Seattle Service Bureau Inc. (SSB), a corporation with its principal place of business in Washington, pursuant to the referral of unliquidated subrogation claims to SSB by State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, a corporation with its principal place of business in Illinois. Plaintiff alleges these letters constitute CPA violations by both SSB and State Farm as its principal. Plaintiff asserted she incurred damages caused by the alleged deceptive acts. This case involved two certified questions from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. First, the Washington Supreme Court was asked to determine whether the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA), chapter 19.86 RCW) allowed a cause of action for a plaintiff residing outside Washington to sue a Washington corporate defendant for allegedly deceptive acts. Second, the Court was asked to determine whether the CPA supported a cause of action for an out-of-state plaintiff to sue an out-of-state defendant for the allegedly deceptive acts of its instate agent. The United States District Court noted an absence of Washington case law providing guidance on these issues. The Washington Supreme Court answered both certified questions in the affirmative. View "Thornell v. Seattle Serv. Bureau, Inc." on Justia Law
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether particular officers and employees of a bank owed a quasi-fiduciary duty to particular bank depositors. Michael and Theresa Annechino deposited a large amount of money at a bank specifically to ensure that their savings would be protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The Annechinos relied on bank employees’ recommendations of how to structure their accounts to meet FDIC coverage rules. Unfortunately, the bank went into receivership, and the FDIC found that nearly $500,000 of the Annechinos’ deposits were not insured. The Annechinos alleged that individual officers and employees of the bank owed them a duty, the breach of which resulted in their loss. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the individual defendants, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. The officers and employees of the bank did not owe the Annechinos a quasi-fiduciary duty. Holding the officers and employees personally liable under these facts would have contravened established law regarding liability for acts committed on behalf of a corporation or principal. View "Annechino v. Worthy" on Justia Law
The Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington has asked the Washington Supreme Court to answer three certified questions relating to two home foreclosures pending in King County. In both cases, the Mortgage Electronic Registration System Inc. (MERS), in its role as the beneficiary of the deed of trust, was informed by the loan servicers that the homeowners were delinquent on their mortgages. MERS then appointed trustees who initiated foreclosure proceedings. The primary issue was whether MERS was a lawful beneficiary with the power to appoint trustees within the deed of trust act if it did not hold the promissory notes secured by the deeds of trust. A plain reading of the applicable statute leads the Supreme Court to conclude that only the actual holder of the promissory note or other instrument evidencing the obligation may be a beneficiary with the power to appoint a trustee to proceed with a nonjudicial foreclosure on real property. "Simply put, if MERS does not hold the note, it is not a lawful beneficiary." The Court was unable to determine the "legal effect" of MERS not being a lawful beneficiary based on the record underlying these cases. Furthermore, the Court was asked to determine if a homeowner had a Consumer Protection Act (CPA), chapter 19.86 RCW, claim based upon MERS representing that it was a beneficiary. The Court concluded that a homeowner may, "but it would turn on the specific facts of each case." View "Bain v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys." on Justia Law
The issue before the Supreme Court concerned a dispute between Petitioners Donia Townsend and several other home purchasers and Defendant Quadrant Corporation and its parent companies over an arbitration clause in the home purchasers' individual purchase contracts. Several years after the home purchases, Townsend and the other purchasers jointly filed suit in superior court against Quadrant alleging outrage, fraud, unfair business practices, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, rescission and breach of warranty. In support of these allegations, they claimed that Quadrant knowingly engaged in shoddy workmanship in building the homes, and that this resulted in serious construction defects that caused personal injuries relating to mold, pests, and poisonous gases. They claimed that the arbitration clause in their purchase agreements was unenforceable. The superior court denied Quadrant's motion to compel arbitration. The Court of Appeals reversed. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court's holding that the homeowners’ procedural unconscionability claim that pertained to the entire purchase contract, including the arbitration clause, was to be decided by an arbitrator. View "Townsend v. Quadrant Corp." on Justia Law
The trial court in this case ruled that under the Washington courts' application of "Frye v. United States," there must be general acceptance in the relevant scientific community that a particular type of in utero toxic exposure can cause a particular type of birth defect before expert testimony on causation is admissible. Plaintiff Julie Anderson worked for Akzo Nobel Coatings, Inc., from 1998 until she filed a safety complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and was fired. While it was not officially part of her job, Plaintiff regularly mixed paint. Employees were required by official company policy to wear respirators when mixing paint, but there was reason to believe that the policy was not rigorously enforced and may have been actively undermined by management. Plaintiff gave birth to a son in January 2000. By 2003, it was clear the child suffered from "medical abnormalities." He was diagnosed with a neuronal migration defect, congenital hemiplegia, microcephalus, and a multicystic dysplastic kidney, among other things, along with "delays in motor, communication, cognitive, and adaptive behavior." Upon review of the trial record, the Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court's interpretation and subsequent ruling on the issue. The Court held that the Frye test is not implicated if the theory and the methodology relied upon and used by the expert to reach an opinion on causation is generally accepted by the relevant scientific community. The Court affirmed the trial court's rulings on comparative fault and wrongful discharge. The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.
Washington residents who were consumers of allegedly illegal debt adjustment programs filed a class action lawsuit against Defendants Global Client Solutions, LLC (GCS) and Rocky Mountain Bank and Trust (RMBT). Defendants managed and held âspecial purpose accountsâ as part of their adjustment programs. Payments to consumersâ creditors were authorized from these accounts. When enough money accumulated in a consumerâs account, Defendants would attempt to use the funds to negotiate settlement with creditors on terms favorable to the consumer. Defendants charged consumers various fees for its services. GCSâ earnings came from the fees they charged directly to the special purpose account holders. RMBT did not receive fees, but benefited by holding Plaintiffsâ money without paying interest. In 2009, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued a cease and desist order that required a reformation of RMBTâs banking practices. GCS subsequently stopped opening new accounts at RMBT. Later that year, Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against GCS and RMBT on behalf of all consumers who has special purpose accounts. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington certified three questions to the state Supreme Court regarding interpretation of state law in the Plaintiffsâ case. In response, the Supreme Court concluded that GCS is a âdebt adjusterâ and as such, is not exempt from liability under state law. Furthermore, the Court concluded that debt settlement companies that worked with GCS and RMBT are likely subject to the stateâs debt adjusting statute fee limits, depending on whether they are debt adjusters providing debt adjustment services.