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Charles Gussow has experience in consumer protection law, administrative law, appellate litigation and federal practice. Before joining Stoel Rives, Charles was a law clerk for the Honorable Betty Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (2012-2013).

In Jacksons v. Quality Loan Service Corporation of Washington, No. 72-16-3-1 (April 6, 2015), the Washington Court of Appeals (Division 1) affirmed the dismissal of a plaintiff’s claims against various entities connected with a planned nonjudicial foreclosure sale of her house.   In so ruling, the court confirmed a number of procedures that together streamline mortgage foreclosure litigation:  (1) documents referenced in debtor’s complaint or available from the county record’s office are properly considered in a motion to dismiss, (2)  nonjudicial foreclosures are not claims, and (3) a declaration by the holder of the note satisfies Deed of Trust Act (DTA) proof requirements for nonjudicial foreclosure.

First, the court ruled that the trial court properly took judicial notice of the note, addendum, and an allonge because they were referenced in the complaint.  The assignment of the deed of trust and recorded appointment of a successor trustee were subject to judicial notice because they were public records easily accessible through the King County Recorder’s Office.  Slip op. at 5-6.
Continue Reading Washington Court of Appeals Streamlines Foreclosure Process

In Waltson v. Boeing Co., a 5-4 majority of the Washington Supreme Court held that Boeing did not have actual knowledge in 1985 that asbestos exposure would cause certain injury and that its former employee was therefore only entitled to worker’s compensation payment for the cost of the mesothelioma that likely resulted from that exposure.  While evidence showed Boeing knew that asbestos caused cellular damage and posed a risk of mesothelioma, the Court held that awareness of risk was not sufficient to defeat an employer’s tort immunity under the worker’s compensation system.  Had Boeing known that asbestos would cause certain injury, the employee’s estate would have been able to put aside worker’s compensation to sue Boeing for torts related to his disease and death.
Continue Reading Seeking Absolutes in a World of Probabilities: Washington Supreme Court Finds Mesothelioma to be Risk of Asbestos Exposure Rather than a Certain Harm

In State v. Hawkins, the Supreme Court reinstated a trial court’s grant of a new trial for newly discovered evidence after the Court of Appeals overturned that decision.  The decision is highly fact specific, and fascinating for mystery buffs, but the take away is clear: just as defendants can’t lightly disturb trial court rulings against

Washington has allowed people to be involuntarily detained if they are a risk to themselves or others or are gravely disabled under the Involuntary Treatment  Act (ITA) since 1977 – first for a short period of evaluation, then for treatment.   Close of observers of modern mental health trends will not be surprised to learn that

In Storti v. University of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court determined that the University’s faculty handbook had created a valid unilateral contract with its faculty that promised a 2% merit-based salary increase subject to “reevaulation” based on funding.  When University funding went south at the height of the recession in 2009-10, the University cancelled

Renters want to vindicate their rights without fear of retaliation.  Landlords want to know as much as they can about the people who seek to live in their property.  In Hundtofte v. Encarnacion a fractured Supreme Court resolved a conflict between those two impulses in favor of the landlords.  Renters can force their landlord to sue to evict them if they feel they are being unjustly ushered out of their apartment.  But renters will not be able to keep that lawsuit secret from future landlords who might be wary of renting to litigation-prone tenants.  In order to decide this issue, the Court gave something very much like standing to the county clerk who opposed a Superior Court order to amend county indices.
Continue Reading In Renters v. Landlords, the County Clerk Wins

In the denouement of a much-publicized case, the Washington Supreme Court ordered a trial court to dismiss charges against Douglas Bauer, a man who left a loaded gun accessible to his girlfriend’s six year old child.  The child took the gun to school, where it discharged and seriously injured a classmate.  Bauer was charged with third degree assault for “causing” the child’s injury directly and under a statute outlawing criminal complicity.  Bauer sought dismissal of the charges as a matter of law, which the trial court denied.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, keeping the charges alive. In State v. Bauer, the Supreme Court reversed.
Continue Reading Washington Supreme Court Declines to Blame Gun Owner for Injuries Caused When a Child Took the Loaded Gun to School

In State v. Russell, a unanimous Supreme Court found that police officers who stop and frisk people under the “Terry stop” principle can only look for weapons and not fish for evidence of other crimes.  The Court also ruled that an individual does not give consent to a police search by “appear[ing] not to have a problem” with it – instead the officer must ensure the consent is voluntary and that the individual knows he or she can refuse to give consent.

Here, a cop stopped and frisked an individual, found a small box that could not contain a gun and opened it anyway. The cop found a syringe filled with methamphetamine.  The Supreme Court held that the syringe could not be admitted into evidence against the defendant because a Terry stop only allows protective frisks for weapons and does not justify opening containers to see what is inside them.  The Supreme Court also rejected the alternative argument that the defendant consented to the search by appearing not to have a problem with the frisk and observed that the State failed to establish that the officer gave Miranda warnings or otherwise advised him that he could refuse consent.

Police officers in Washington have been put on notice that they do not have a free hand in seeking evidence through stop and frisk tactics.  They must limit themselves to performing a safety search for weapons unless they get either true consent for a more intrusive search or a warrant.Continue Reading Washington Supreme Court Limits “Stop and Frisk”