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Issaquah Law Group: Experienced Counsel; Client Focus

PHILOSOPHY: Formed in 2014, Issaquah Law Group is a law firm with one focus: providing businesses and insurers with high quality legal representation with the responsiveness of a smaller firm. ILG was founded on the principle that strong client relationships are the key to successful legal representation and strong relationships are built upon clear and consistent communication. 

LITIGATION: We work closely with our clients to fully and accurately understand their goals, work collaboratively to formulate specific legal strategies, and execute the agreed plan of action utilizing methods most likely to result in the efficient and effective resolution of the matter. ILG attorneys have a broad base of litigation experience to draw on in all Federal and State courts from on-the-ground investigations to Supreme Court appeals in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death, product liability, commercial general liability, labor & employment, construction litigation, and catastrophic losses due to fire and explosion.

BUSINESS LAW: Rarely is the path from point A to point B a straight line, so our role in a business law practice is to find alternatives, devise workable strategies, and keep your business ideas, goals and objectives moving toward realization. ILG’s business attorneys help clients achieve their goals with respect to business formation, intellectual property, labor and employment, CAN-SPAM, copyright and trademark

COMMUNITY: In addition, the Lawyers at Issaquah Law Group remain active in the legal and civic community. A core commitment of our Issaquah Attorneys is community service. Our attorneys' civic involvement includes the King County Civil Rights Commission; the City of Issaquah Planning Policy Commission; the Northwest Screenwriters Guild, service as a pro tem judge. We live and work in the Pacific Northwest, and we aim to make it a better place.

In addition, through The Amateur Law Professor Blog and LinkedIn postings, we share pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court, as well as the pertinent opinions and decisions of the Washington State Courts of Appeal so that our clients can be as update to date on cutting legal issues as we are.

WA Supreme Court - Long Arm Applies to Foreign CEO in Employment Relationship

Failla v. Fixtureone Corp.

The one thing that takes some getting used to is the fact that all of these opinions now come out in PDF only. At least they are OCRd to I can still cut and past where necessary. Anyhow, Failla sought a job with fixture one, it was a sales gig that she could work out of her home. Fixtureone, on the other hand, it based out of Pennsylvania. They told her she might be a fit because Fixtureone didn’t really have people out in Washington. Short story, she was hired, and later promoted to VP of sales. They asked her to sign something saying everything would be done under Pennsylvania law, but that never happened, and it looks like the document got stuck in revisions. Fixtureone then closed shop, still owing Failla some back-due commission from her sales rep days, and told her they didn’t owe her those.

She sued for withholding of wage under Washington law. She served her former boss (who was the founder), but not the company itself.

So here’s where it gets sticky. Boss man says hey, you didn’t serve the company, and I personally have no contacts with Washington. The trial court said that argument was bunk, but the court of appeals said the argument was actually a good one.

Anyhow, the Washington Supreme Court took the view that Schutz’s actions as CEO of Fixtureone were sufficient to allow jurisdiction over Schutz personally:

We agree that a corporation's actions cannot be simply imputed to a corporate officer or employee for purposes of determining whether there are minimum contacts necessary to establish jurisdiction. But it is just as true that an officer or employee is not automatically shielded from personal jurisdiction just because his contacts occurred in the context of his employment. Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 790 104 S. Ct 1482, 79 L. Ed. 2d 804 (1984). Instead, “[e]ach defendant’s contacts with the forum State must be assessed individually.” Id.; see also David v. Metro Prods., Inc.. 885 F.2d 515, 522 (9th Cir. 1989) (affirming states’ authority to assert personal jurisdiction over corporate officers based on contacts performed in that capacity). We determine personal jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis.

Shultz is the founder and CEO of FixtureOne. He was the individual who responded to Failla’s job inquiry, interviewed her, and hired her because of the potential benefits to FixtureOne of having a sales representative in Washington. During the two-year course of her employment, Schutz set her salary, issued her payroll checks, promoted her, gave her a raise, and calculated her commissions. He appeared to be the primary contact for Failla, and in fact, there is no evidence in the record that Failla had contact with anyone other than Schutz.

Like I said, this is where it gets a little sticky. On the one hand, yes, he personally did have the contacts with Washington. On the other hand, those contacts were on behalf of FixtureOne. So was it Schutz or FixtureOne who had the contacts with Washington? Does this now impute personal liability on a CEO for the actions of an employee? Its a muddling of the waters. To get a better understanding, we need to look to Calder v. Jones. In Calder the Supreme Court said the plaintiff could assert personal jurisdiction for liable over the editor due to the magazine’s contacts with the state. That, actually, seems a bit wider than what is going on here. Think about Calder in today’s age. A blogger who sends an article to a national blog could get pulled in for liable knowing that the blog he submitted to had a wide circulation. Not sure if that would hold up today.

Regardless, I do not disagree with the result, I simply think the court’s reasoning in getting there was a little bare bones at the federal level. The real issue here was the CEO being pulled in for the actions of the company.

What it comes down to is this: a Washington worker should be protected by Washington laws.

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