Business Law


Victory for Washington estates against aircraft industry

Supreme Court hands significant victory for estates of persons who perish in aircraft accidents Small aircraft are popular in the Pacific Northwest, just come to Anacortes and the San Juan Islands on a sunny day and you will find the place abuzz with activity. But when the worst happens, does the estate of a airplane crash victim have the right to sue the aircraft manufacturer under Washington tort law? Today,…

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Non compete reasonable? Standard refined and doctors not exempt

A physician’s employment agreement with health care facility included a noncompete covenant that prevented him from practicing cardiology competitively in Pierce County or Federal Way for five years after termination. The doctor sought declaratory relief that the noncompete covenant was unenforceable and the trial court concluded that the geographic and temporal restraints in the noncompete covenant were unreasonable. It reformed the restraints by reducing the geographical limitations on Emerick’s cardiology practice to a two mile radius…

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A ‘termination for convenience’ clause is enforceable, Court rules

A ‘termination for convenience’ clause is enforceable when supported by adequate consideration, ruled the Court of Appeals, Div. 1, in a case of new impression. SAK & Associates v. Ferguson Construction,  (Aug. 10, 2015 – 72258-1). The case comes to the court from the construction industry. The plaintiff, SAK, entered into a fixed sum contract with Ferguson Construction to provide concrete materials and paving services for the construction of airport hangars.…

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Workers paid by the piece entitled to paid rest breaks

In a case of local interest, the Washington Supreme Court ruled today that employees compensated “by the piece” must be paid for rest breaks  just like their hourly counterparts.  Demetrio v. Sakuma Bros. Farms (Jul. 16, 2015 – 90932-6).  In this case of first impression involving our local berry producer, Sakuma Bros. Farms, the court created a level plain field for all  workers, regardless of how they are paid, provided clear guidance to employers, and…

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Limited liability company law changes in 2016 – the new Washington LLC Act

What is new for Washington LLCs in the 2016 Limited Liability Company Act? Limited liability companies in Washington State get a face-lift – a new LLC Act will become effective on January 1, 2016. The new LLC Act will completely replace the one currently in place. Existing LLCs will not be affected by the new Act until January 1, 2016 and all “actions commenced, proceedings brought, or rights accrued before January 1, 2016” will be governed by the…

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No right to unemployment benefits if only part-time work desired

Today, in Darkenwald v. Emp’t Sec. Dep’t, (90544-4), the WA Supreme Court addressed whether a desire to work only part time constitutes a good cause reason for leaving work, thus permitting an individual who leaves work for that reason to collect unemployment benefits. The appellant, a dental hygienist, claimed that her employer’s request that she increase her working hours to three days per week gave her good cause to leave work because she…

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Is your arbitration agreement enforceable?

Arbitration strongly favored in Washington Washington has a strong public policy favoring arbitration. In Romney v. Franciscan Medical Group, 71625-5-1, Div. I (February 17, 2015), the Court reiterated this clear policy upholding an employer-employee arbitration agreement even if certain provisions of the agreement are substantively unconscionable so long as those provisions are severable. The Romney Case Three medical professionals entered into an employment contract with Franciscan Medical Group that included agreements…

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Employer ‘stay-at-work’ subsidy payments here to stay

Employer ‘stay-at-work’ subsidy payments upheld Employers are entitled to subsidy payments under the stay-at-work program without time restrictions, the Court of Appeals ruled today in Cascadian Building Maintenance Ltd, v. Dept. Of Labor & Industries, (Div. 1, Feb. 2, 2015 – 71209-8). Cascadian Building Maintenance appealed the denial of its stay-at-work wage reimbursement for the first 3 of the 6 days its employee worked light duty following her industrial injury and the Court sided…

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Accountant owes duty to third party, appellate court rules

Accountant owes duty to third party Certified public accountants (CPAs) owe a duty of care to third parties (non-clients) and can be held liable for damages if, through their action or inaction, the third-party suffers injury as a result, held today the Court of Appeals, Div. 1, in Dewar v. Smith, (69701-3-1, 7019-8-1, January 26, 2015). The key aspect of this case is that the accountant was not engaged by the third party, but…

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An “apple a day” for your business – prevention is better than cure

“Prevention is better than cure,” you have heard that one before, right? Among the many things the practice of law and medicine share (such as malpractice law suits, stress, etc.), there is also the common notion that staying out of trouble is much better than fixing the trouble when it comes. If genes and environmental pollutants are something most of us would have to live with, we also believe that…

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You are a woman business owner, is your estate plan in order?

Estate and business succession planning for women in business You are a successful woman business owner or you are just starting out. You are planning for retirement or have your very first month in the black. You are passing the baton to a younger business partner or thinking whether your best friend will go into business with you. Is that you? If so, what is your plan? The answers to…

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‘Foreign’ companies had sufficient minimum contacts to face law suit

Foreign company minimum contacts sufficient for consumer law suit Several major electronics companies, such as LG, Phillips, Samsung, and Hitachi, cannot avoid liability to Washington consumers on the basis of claiming that they are “foreign” companies as the foreign minimum contacts with our state were found to be sufficient. State of Washington v. LG Electronics et al, (70298-0-1/70299-8-1). The Court considered the due process limitations on the exercise of personal jurisdiction…

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Distillers exempt from fees despite distributors’ objections

Today the WA Supreme Court rejected the challenge to the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s (Board) spirits distribution licensing fee structure brought by Association of Washington Spirits and Wine Distributors (Association). The Association, a trade group composed of distributors disagreed with the Board’s decision to exempt distillers who distribute their own manufactured spirits and others acting as distributors pursuant to certificates of approval from contributing to a shortfall of $104.7…

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Did the High Court get it right in 2014? At least in one case – it did!

In one of the biggest securities cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Erica P. John Fund v. Halliburton, Halliburton was hoping to get rid of the fraud-on-the-market presumption, which relieves securities plaintiffs from proving that individual investors relied on misleading company statements. A win for Halliburton would have transformed the securities class action landscape and made it far more difficult for investors to sue. In June, Supreme Court unanimously kept…

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Is the cyber security of your business on the top of your list?

At a recent conference, Deputy Secretary Raskin underscored the pervasiveness and the vastness of the cyber threat, quoting the PricewaterhouseCoopers annual global information security survey of corporate executives which included 9,700 participants. The executives reported almost 43 million detected cybersecurity incidents during 2014, a 48 percent increase over 2013. So, are you taking the cyber security of your business seriously? To help many of our business clients who are constantly…

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Is your non compete agreement enforceable? Amazon v Szabadi

Non compete agreements in business Non compete agreements are a key strategy used by businesses in managing post termination scenarios and protecting business know how. We recently discussed in this forum the Amazon.com v. Szabadi King County case filed in June which addressed the enforceability of Amazon’s non compete agreement in a scenario where the ex-Amazon employee was hired by Google in a similar position. No injunctions were issued, although the…

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Amazon non compete agreement under scrutiny

Amazon non compete under scrutiny Today, in Amazon.com Inc. vs Szabadi, 14-2-18167-1 (2014), Amazon sought enforcement of its non compete agreement against Zoltan Szabadi, its former business development executive in its cloud computing services subsidiary when Mr. Szabadi accepted a similar position at Google. In its Complaint, Amazon asks for injunctions, i.e. it seeks court orders preventing the employee from engaging in any activity that would directly or indirectly support…

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