So you watched the oral arguments when the Washington Supreme Court came to the law school? Now, do you know how they decided on the issues? The Washington Courts website provides a notification service that you can subscribe to that will notify you of a new opinion within 30 minutes of its filing. Consider it.
Because the Washington Product Liability Act does not provide for damages for emotional distress in the absence of physical injury, a federal judge dismissed a case against Burger King for negligence, product liability and vicarious liability that had been filed by a Clark County deputy sheriff, Edward Bylsma. In March 2009, the sheriff drove his marked police car through a Burger King drive-through and had an uneasy feeling after he received his burger. He stopped in a parking lot to remove the top bun and found “slimy, clear and white phlegm glob” on the meat patty. DNA testing later confirmed that the saliva matched that of one of the Burger King employees. Although he did not eat the burger, the incident caused Bylsma sleeplessness, vomiting and food aversion.
Bylsma appealed to the 9th Circuit, which asked the Washington Supreme Court for guidance. In an opinion issued February 7, 2013 the state’s highest court concluded Thursday that Bylsma could take his case to trial. “Common sense tells us that food consumption is a personal matter, and contaminated food is closely associated with disgust and other kinds of emotional turmoil,” Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote for the court. “Thus, when a food manufacturer served a contaminated food product, it is well within the scope of foreseeable harm consequences that the individual will suffer emotional damages.” The Supreme Court held that at trial, Bylsma may be successful “if the emotional distress is a reasonable response and manifest by objective symptomatology”.
While the United States Supreme Court term begins on the first Monday in October, our state’s Supreme Court term does not. According to its website, the Washington Supreme Court has four, four-month sessions (although Summer’s session appears consistently light). If one had to define a new “term,” it would probably be the Winter session beginning in January of each year. That is the first session following judicial elections in November. It is also the time when the Chief Justice gives her State of the Judiciary address.
The Washington Supreme Court adopted a new rule on June 15 that will allow licensed legal technician to assist civil litigants with tasks that previously could only be handled by a licensed attorney. This move is expected to help people who would not otherwise be able to afford legal assistance. Washington is the first state to adopt this type of rule. You can read the text of the rule online.
Three Washington Supreme Court justices dissented to the rule.
If you want to know anything about our state’s highest court, a good starting point is the Washington Supreme Court website. It provides the court’s docket, recent decisions, appellate briefs and biographies of the justices (did you know Justice Sanders played in the Rose Bowl?). It also has information on the court’s clerkship opportunities.
[tweetmeme source=”sulawlib” style=”compact”]