Washington Supreme Court Addresses Joint and Several Liability for Vicariously Liable Defendants

September 1st, 2018

Under Washington law, when a plaintiff sues multiple defendants in tort, the fault of each defendant is determined and each defendant is normally liable only for its proportionate share of the plaintiff’s damages. RCW 4.22.070(1). Several liability is thus the default, with joint and several liability being the exception. Recently, in Afoa v. Port of Seattle, No. 94525-0 (July 19, 2018), the Washington Supreme Court narrowly held (in a 5-4 decision) that the exception to several liability found in RCW 4.22.070(1)(a) applies so that a defendant vicariously liable for another defendant’s fault can be found jointly and severally liable. But because the jury in Afoa had not entered a specific factual finding of vicarious liability, the Court refused to apply the exception to the rule.


Washington Law Permits Extra-Contractual Suits Against Individual Insurance Adjusters

April 3rd, 2018

Last week, in Keodalah v. Allstate Insurance Company, No. 75731 8-I, 2018 WL 1465526 (Wash. Ct. App. Mar. 26, 2018), Division One of the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington held a policyholder can bring a “bad faith” lawsuit against an individual adjuster employed by an insurance company even though the adjuster’s actions were all undertaken in the course and scope of her employment.


Federal Court Holds UIM Insured Injured in Chain Reaction Accident Entitled to Only One Per-Accident Limit

June 24th, 2016

In a recent decision in IDS Property Casualty Insurance Co. v. Pickens, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 142638 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 20, 2015), the United States District Court for the Federal District of Washington held a UIM insured was not entitled to two per-accident UIM limits when he was struck by a vehicle that had previously collided with another vehicle. The court held that, even though the accident in which the insured was injured may have had more than one proximate cause, it was still only one accident for purposes of determining how many per-accident limits applied.


Washington Supreme Court Declines to Provide a Clear Answer Regarding UIM Coverage for Injuries Caused by Shots Fired From a Vehicle

January 15th, 2016

In a decision issued on January 14, 2016, the Washington Supreme Court confirmed that, in most situations, whether UIM coverage applies to injuries caused by a gun fired from an uninsured or underinsured motor vehicle is a question to be decided by a jury.


In Memoriam: Bob Dickerson Died Without Regrets

June 2nd, 2015

Bob portrait 5

It is with great sorrow that we acknowledge the recent passing of one of our founding members, Bob Dickerson. Bob fought cancer for fifteen years and finally lost that battle. But he didn’t die with regrets. And that is because he lived his values, contributing to others and to the planet in every way.


WSCD Managing Partner, Whitney Smith, to Speak at Upcoming CLM Annual Conference

March 12th, 2015

We are pleased to announce that our new Managing Partner, Whitney Smith, will be presenting at the upcoming Annual Conference of The Claims and Litigation Management Alliance (CLM). Whitney’s presentation is entitled: “PRODUCT LIABILITY - The Future is Now: 3D Printing.” The conference takes place in Palm Desert, California, March 25-27, 2015.


A Lawyer and a Gentleman

November 17th, 2014

We at Wilson Smith Cochran Dickerson are pleased to share that one of our founding members, Bob Dickerson, was recently honored in an official report from the U.S. Congressional Record, where Congressman Adam Smith took the floor to honor Bob for his 25 years of leadership of an organization called RESULTS, which has the humble aim of ending world poverty.


Amicus Advocacy

October 6th, 2014

Wilson Smith Cochran Dickerson is pleased to have helped amplify the voices of missing and exploited children in the Washington courts. Alongside the national law firm of Kaye Scholer, our partner, Kathy Cochran, had the honor of assisting in the filing of an amicus brief on behalf of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in a case pending before the Supreme Court of Washington. An amicus brief—or “friend of the court” brief—provides an opportunity for a person or organization that is not a party to a case to show it has a sufficient interest in the case to be allowed to file a brief in support of a party’s position.


Johnson v. Safeco—Fraud Voids an Insured’s Extra-Contractual, CPA, and IFCA Claims Even If the Insurer Committed its Alleged Wrongs Before the Insured’s Wrongful Conduct

June 14th, 2014

In Johnson v. Safeco Insurance Company of America, 176 Wn. App. 1022 (2013), the Washington Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s Summary Judgment dismissal of the insured homeowner’s claim for property coverage, bad faith, and alleged violations of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and Insurance Fair Conduct Act (IFCA) because the insured fraudulently misrepresented facts during the claim process and untruthfully inflated the value of his claim. Although decided in December 2013, the Appellate Court recently granted a Motion to Publish the holding.


Washington Supreme Court holds liability insurers defending under a “reservation of rights” cannot unilaterally condition the defense on recouping their defense costs in the event a court ultimately finds no coverage.

March 7th, 2013

In National Surety Corp. v. Immunex Corp., the Washington Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 majority opinion, that a liability insurer cannot unilaterally condition the defense it affords its insured under a “reservation of rights” on the insurer’s recoupment of defense costs in the event there is a finding of no coverage. Absent policy provisions to the contrary, the insurer can only avoid or limit its exposure to defense costs in situations involving late tender by the insured that result in “actual and substantial prejudice” to the insurer. As such, once a liability insurer accepts its insured’s tender of defense under a reservation of rights, the insurer’s duty to fund the defense continues until a court says there is no coverage and the insurer may not seek reimbursement of defense costs incurred prior to the court’s coverage ruling.


Washington Supreme Court creates presumed waiver of the insurer’s attorney-client and work product privileges.

February 21st, 2013

In Cedell v. Farmers Insurance Company, decided on February 21, 2013, the Washington Supreme Court has held: “In first party insurance claims by insureds claiming bad faith, other than UIM claims, there is a presumption of no attorney client privilege” to protect attorney communications and work product in the insurer’s claim file. The insurer may overcome the presumption only upon a showing that the attorney was providing strictly legal counsel to the insurer, and not assisting the insurer in performing its quasi-fiduciary functions in the investigation and adjustment of the claim.


Kathy A. Cochran, founding member of the firm, was recently honored as Alumna of the Month by the University of Washington School of Law.

February 4th, 2013

In the article accompanying this honor, UW Law Professor, William S. Bailey retired from Fury Bailey, PS cited Cochran’s work in his publication, “Show the Story: The Power of Visual Advocacy”.

“She is one of the most creative lawyers in practice today, a talented visual artist who draws upon these skills in putting together her cases. There is nobody around who is more versatile in presenting information than Kathy,” he said.

You can learn more about this award, and read an interview with Kathy at http://www.law.washington.edu/Alumni/alumni_of_the_month/

Washington Product Liability Act: Washington Supreme Court permits recovery for emotional distress in the absence of physical harm caused by purchaser's use of the product

February 7th, 2013

On January 31, 2013, the Supreme Court decided Bylsma v. Burger King Corp., --- P.3d ---, 2013 WL 3635919 (Wash.). Deputy Sheriff Ed Bylsma ordered lunch at a Burger King drive-in window. He “had an uneasy feeling” as he pulled away, so he carefully inspected his order and found that he had been “served a burger with phlegm inside the bun.” Bylsma’s lips never touched the offending Whopper, but he was not amused – and not about to go gently into that cold, dark night.


New Washington Supreme Court Decision Opens A Troublesome Door

November 12th, 2012

Bird v. Best Plumbing is the latest opinion from our State Supreme Court on consent judgments. The Court has clearly pronounced that an insurer is not entitled to a jury trial on the amount of damages and that the consent amount, once found reasonable by a court, is the amount of damages: