In today’s chapter of debatable court rulings, we bring you the case of Rappaport, where the Plaintiff was a man driving westbound on SW Admiral Way in West Seattle and the Defendant was a woman driving eastbound on that same road.
While both parties agree that Defendant crosses the double yellow lines in to the opposing lane of travel, the Plaintiff alleges that Defendant’s vehicle crosses over the yellow lines, and that the Defendant’s driver side mirror struck the Plaintiff’s driver side mirror. The District Court granted the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. In support, the Defendant provided her declaration, a repair estimate, photographs of the Plaintiff’s car, and two declarations of doctors which provided, in essence, that it was highly unlikely that the Plaintiff could’ve been injured through the collision between the two mirrors of the vehicles. The Plaintiff argued that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to the determination of whether the collision of the mirrors could have caused his injury, and provided his declaration, the incident report, the declaration of a friend, and some medical records. The Plaintiff continued with his declaration, stating that the cars had collided and that while both parties were waiting for the police, that the Plaintiff’s mother had wiped off all signs of contact from the Plaintiff’s side mirror.
On reconsideration, Plaintiff yet again submitted the medical records, but also submitted the additional declaration of the emergency room doctor and a records review doctor, stating that on a more probable than not basis, the injury was the result of an accident. However, there was no showing that the declarations were not available to Plaintiff at the time of the original motion for summary judgment, a pre-requisite for new evidence being admissible on reconsideration. The district court considered the declarations, but weighed the opinions based on the fact the records review did not examine Plaintiff. However, the District Court’s reasoning in denying the motion for reconsideration was due to the lack of causation based on the minimal contact between the vehicles.
The Plaintiff appealed the district court decision to superior court, stating that whether a collision occurred should be a question for the jury. However, the Superior Court affirmed the summary judgment dismissal, stating that there was no competent evidence to support the conclusion that a collision occurred.
Plaintiff then appealed and the Court of Appeals, which reversed the superior court. However, the Court of Appeals applied flawed logic in reversing the grant for summary judgment. In reaching their decision, the Court of Appeals emphasized the reasoning used in Bohnsack, a Washington Supreme Court Case.
In Bohnsack the Washington Supreme Court held that where physical facts are uncontroverted and speak with a force that overcomes all testimony to the contrary, reasonable minds must follow the physical facts. The parties in Bohnsack disputed the lane of travel where the motor vehicle accident occurred, both parties alleging that the collision happened in their lane of travel. Although the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, both the trial court and Washington Supreme Court granted a motion for new trial since the evidence was overwhelming that the collision occurred in the plaintiff’s lane of travel.
The Court of Appeals somehow concluded that the present case was unlike Bohnsack, as they found that the physical facts were not uncontroverted since they found convincing that the Plaintiff stated that the Defendant’s mother wiped off all traces of the accident, that the GEICO damage estimate occurred after the accident, and that the investigator did not take photographs of Rappaport’s car until well after the collision.
Regardless of whether a collision occurred, the court of appeals ignored the record on causation. On summary judgment, Plaintiff had no evidence of causation, and only submitted materials on causation on reconsideration, despite no showing the materials could not have been obtained in time for the summary judgment hearing. Instead, the Court of Appeals conflated the arguments of duty and breach with causation. The Court of Appeals continued even further, restating case law that the affidavit of the nonmovant must be taken as true for purposes of summary judgment. This only further displayed the Court of Appeals’ illogical judgment in allowing this particular claim to proceed.
Now, I will say this, we really don't know (or, rather, I have not gone through and read each side's briefing) whether this argument was made on appeal. If it wasn't, it most certainly should have been. The lack of any evidence on causation at the motion for summary judgment should have been conclusive.
Like two cars apparently passing in the night, the Court of Appeals has missed the mark regarding this recent ruling. We have a stellar track record on summary judgment, obtaining dismissal over fifty percent of the times sought. We also handle these claims on appeal, ensuring the strongest arguments are made at all levels of the process. Our attorneys have extensive experience in motions practice and can provide every claim with the strongest course of action. If you require assistance with your claim, please contact Issaquah Law Group.