WA Case Update: Deception Doctrine Inapplicable If Obstruction Will Move

Attorney Profile Case Update Template - Josh

From the Desk of Joshua P. Hayward: Historically under Washington law, a driver who turned left against oncoming traffic and caused an accident could be found negligent per se, which would be a complete bar to recovery.  The deception doctrine was developed to soften these harsh effects.  This doctrine allowed the driver to recover in two situations.  A driver could recover if he was either deceived by the other driver’s actions or if he was unable to see a negligently operated vehicle because of a physical obstruction.  This case discusses the application of the doctrine.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a car accident, the Washington Court of Appeals held that the deception doctrine did not apply, and that the trial court properly dismissed the plaintiff’s case.  The case provides insight into the analysis of the deception doctrine and serves as an important reminder of how this doctrine is applied.

Colburn v. Trees, No. 74366-0-I, Washington Court of Appeals, Division One (October 17, 2016) (unpublished)

In August 2011, Billy Colburn and David Trees were involved in a car accident.  Trees was traveling south in the left lane, and he changed lanes to go around a bus that was waiting at the intersection to turn left.  Colburn was traveling the north and turned left, crossing in front of Trees.  Trees attempted to swerve, but he was unable to avoid colliding with Colburn’s vehicle.  Because Trees was traveling straight through the intersection, he had the statutory right-of-way, making him the “favored driver.”  Colburn, who was turning left across traffic, was statutorily required to yield, making him the unfavored driver.  Colburn sued Trees for personal injuries and damages caused by the accident.  Trees moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted Trees’ motion.  Colburn appealed.

On appeal, Colburn argued that there were a number of issues of material fact.  First, he asserted that Trees was speeding and that...

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