Washington Case Law Update: Discovery Violation Sanctions Should Be Least Severe Possible
From the Desk of Kyle D. Riley: When a party fails to reasonably respond to discovery requests, the trial court can sanction the party. Generally, sanctions should be the least severe sanctions possible that will still ensure the wrongdoer does not profit from the wrong. Read on to see how the appellate courts may analyze whether sanctions are appropriately tailored to the violation.
Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a slip-and-fall, the Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s sanctions granting attorney costs and fees. The case provides insight into how sanctions for discovery violations are handled by the courts. The case is a reminder that sanctions are possible even where a party believes it has properly complied with all discovery requests.
Loe v. Benson Village Associates, No. 72946-2-I, Washington Court of Appeals, Div. I (September 26, 2016) (unpublished)
Nancy Loe (“Loe”) was a tenant in the Benson Village Apartments owed by Benson Village Associates (“Benson”). In November 2010, Loe fell in a common area outside Benson’s office. She sued, alleging she tripped over small decorative pumpkins that were in the way.
In February 2014, Loe served Benson with requests for production, which included a request for documents describing procedures to maintain the safety of walkways and procedures to follow in the case of an accident. Benson did not provide any documents in response, instead indicating there were no such documents, even going so far as to question why Loe requested that Benson supplement its discovery responses.
The case proceeded to arbitration in August 2014. At the arbitration, one of Benson’s resident managers testified that she had read an Operations Manual (“Manual”) and would routinely look things up in it. She also testified that the manual, which contained instructions to property managers to inspect...