Personal Injury Attorney-Discovery Sanctions Are Getting Serious In Washington

One of the most frustrating things for me is watching the opposing side abuse discovery rules and get away with it in front of the Court. Well, the Washington Supreme Court and Washington Court of Appeals may be sharing my frustration.

In Blair v. Ta-Seattle East No., the trial court entered a scheduling order that provided that discovery cutoff would be September 4, 2007. However, on October 1, 2007, the plaintiff disclosed two previously undisclosed witnesses. Strangely, these two undisclosed witnesses were key to the plaintiff’s case for establishing causation. The trial court struck the two witnesses. The Defendant then moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff could not establish the causation element of his case. The trial court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s entire case.

The matter went to the Court of Appeals, who affirmed the trial court. Next came the Washington Supreme Court, which reversed the trial court on the grounds that the trial court did not make a record for the basis of its decision. In short, the Washington Supreme Court wanted to see the trial court’s reasoning on the record. Nothing in the Washington Supreme Court’s opinion precluded the trial court from placing its reasoning on the record and dismissing Plaintiff’s case.

The result seems harsh (dismissal of a case), but one can read between the lines that several Washington courts are getting tired of discovery abuse.

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