Daily Decisions: Jurisdiction Revisited (and Muddled)

There’s a lot of back story in A & W Farms v. Raymond E. Cook (Division 3, May 22, 2012), but I’ll do my best to summarize the gist of the relevant facts.

A & W Farms (“A&W”) sued Raymond Cook and got a judgment against him (well, against his business). During that litigation, Cook purchased a ranch, but arranged the transaction so that it was placed in the name of Adeline Johnson (another defendant in this action). A&W then moved, in a supplemental proceeding, to set aside the purchase as a fraudulent transfer to Johnson. There were lots of problems with discovery in the fraudulent transfer action: Johnson was not amenable to deposition; Cook avoided service and, for some time, refused to appear; &c.

In the end, the trial court concluded that the purchase of the ranch in Johnson’s name, instead of Cook’s name, was a fraudulent transfer. The court therefore quieted title to the ranch in Cook’s name, which meant it was subject to A&W’s judgment.

So what’s the problem? Well, this is another case about subject matter jurisdiction! Cook argued in the Court of Appeals that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over A&W’s fraudulent transfer claim because it “should have been brought in the county where the property is located.” Having just read MHM&F, LLC v. Edward Pryor, Jr. (Division 1, May 21, 2012) (or perhaps the Ziff Blog summary!) you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Of course there was subject matter jurisdiction! The Washington Constitution grants broad SMJ to the superior courts that is not subject to statutory whittling!” At least, that’s what I thought.  Continue reading


Daily Decisions: Apportionment of “Just Compensation” to a Commercial Tenant

I should admit at the outset that I don’t really like this case. The whole thing seems unfair. But I’m not sure how much of that perceived unfairnes is just the way it is, or whether perhaps the case should have been decided differently. I have no idea.

With that disclaimer, here is City of Puyallup v. Carl R. Hogan (Division 2, May 16, 2012). Carl Hogan owns a shopping center in Puyallup. But he used to own a little bit more. A “small portion” of his shopping center was condemned by the City in connection with a road construction project. As a taking, Hogan was entitled to “just compensation,” which a jury calculated at $5,150,000. That award was based, at least in part, on the City’s elimination of a road, which would reduce traffic and access to the center (and therefore reduce the number of shoppers).

Okay, so far so good. But then Borders (the shopping center’s “anchor tenant”) claimed that it was entitled to a portion of the award. The trial court agreed and awarded $948,000 to Borders after a “bench apportionment trial.” I admit that this is the first time I’ve ever heard of such a procedure. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Tenants Are Presumed Coinsureds with Landlords

In Trinity Universal Insurance Co. v. Corrine Cook (Division 3, May 17, 2012), the Court of Appeals made clear that general rule, and the rule in Washington, is that a “tenant is a coinsured with her landlord under the landlord’s fire insurance policy, absent a specific provision in the rental agreement or lease to the contrary.” Accordingly, because the tenant is a coinsured, the landlord’s insurance company cannot recover from the tenant on a subrogation claim. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Adverse Possession and the Revocation of Permission

James R. Herrin v. Ellen O’Hern (Division 1, May 14, 2012), is an adverse possession case, which is fine, but I think it’s more interesting as a summary judgment case. In short, the law placed a burden on the Herrins to establish a relevant fact and the Court concluded that they had done enough to create an issue of fact on the question. I’m not so sure about that. But first… the facts!

Back in the day, the Rothenbuhlers owned a large piece of land that a farmhouse, a field, a barn, and some acreage. In 1993, by deed of gift, the Rothenbuhlers transferred the southwest parcel (which is the farmhouse parcel) to James Herrin (who used to be married to one of their daughters. Then in 2003, the northeast parcel (barn, field, &c.) was transferred to Ellen O’Hern (another of the Rosthenbuhlers’ daughters) from her father’s estate following his death.

Well, it turns out that near the border between the parcels, there is a garage, some land, and a little fenced-in area. That land is technically on O’Hern’s property, but the record is clear that it “has always been used by the owners of the farmhouse property,” which are now the Herrins.

[Note: The Court of Appeals repeatedly referred to plaintiffs Herrin and Herrin as the Herrins, but then renders the possessive as the Herrins’s. Yikes. Perhaps we could call that an adverse possessive? Ha! Jokes!]

This little problem was discovered after a 2008-ish survey; before the survey, nobody was aware of the encroachment. But once discovered, of course, everyone sued everyone else, with the Herrins claiming title to the land by adverse possession. O’Hern then moved for summary judgment, assuming that the Herrins could establish actual, open, continuous, and exclusive use. But she argued that the Herrins’ use was permissive, not hostile, and therefore could not support adverse possession. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Three Strikes, You’re Out (of Bases for Attorneys’ Fees)

Well, here we go again — another opinion with our friends from NYBA, Seattle Boat, Bridges, and Radovich. You’ll remember them from this morning’s post about quitclaim deeds and property disputes. In that opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s decision (on six separate grounds!) regarding the validity of the deed. In a companion opinion, Bridges Investment Group v. Radovich (Division 1, May 7, 2012), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of Bridges, but reversed all three bases of the trial court’s award of attorneys’ fees to Bridges (from Radovich). Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Court of Appeals Rejects Six Alternative Holdings in Reversing Trial Court

Wow. There are reversals, and then there are reversals. The Newport Yacht Basin Ass’n of Condominium Owners v. Supreme Northwest, Inc. (Division 1, May 7, 2012), is the latter. In this dispute, which involved title to three plots of lakefront property, the trial court ruled in favor of Supreme Northwest (d/b/a “Seattle Boat”) based on six independent holdings, each of which would have been sufficient to support the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeals reversed all six holdings. All six! Yikes. (Though the Court of Appeals did rule in favor of Seattle Boat on a smaller matter, discussed below.) Continue reading

Daily Decisions: When You Buy a Swamp, You’re Entitled to a Swamp

For some reason, this week included a rash of previously unpublished opinions getting published by the Courts of Appeals. What does that mean? It means more posts for you to read (and for me to write). So here goes.

Crystal Lotus Enterprises Ltd. v. City of Shoreline (Division 1, February 21, 2012) (published April 23, 2012), involves Crystal’s claims against the City for (1) trespass and (2) an unlawful taking. The trial court dismissed Crystal’s claims on summary judgment. Crystal appealed. Continue reading