Washington Case Law Update: When is a Statement Considered an Offer to Compromise?

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Washington Case Law Update: When is a Statement Considered an Offer to Compromise?

From the desk of Kyle D. RileyUnder Washington’s evidence rules, an offer to compromise is not admissible in court. This allows the parties to engage in candid settlement discussions without concern that a statement will later be used as evidence against them. When is a statement considered an offer to compromise? Read on to learn more.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of an adverse possession claim over disputed land, the Washington Court of Appeals held that because no dispute had yet arisen as to the ownership of the land, a permit to use the property and an offer to purchase the property were not offers to compromise and were therefore admissible as evidence. The case provides insightful analysis of when a statement is properly considered an offer to compromise, a key consideration in any claim.

Buchanan v. Gray, No. 75150-6-I, Washington Court of Appeals Div. I (August 14, 2017) (unpublished)

Neighbors Dean Buchanan (“Buchanan”) and Jerry Gray (“Gray”) were in a dispute of ownership of land on the border between their lots. In the 1990s, before Buchanan owned his property, Gray installed a wire fence along the border between the two lots. Buchanan purchased the lot in 2007, and when he surveyed the property in 2009, he realized that some of Gray’s improvements were within the recorded boundaries of Buchanan’s property. In 2011, Buchanan and Gray executed a permit (the “Permit”) that allowed Gray to continue to use the disputed area through the end of 2012. The Permit required Gray to indemnify Buchanan if anyone were to be injured while in the disputed area and to remove any “facility” that they had installed on the property after the Permit terminated. When the Permit expired, Gray failed to remove the improvements, and in 2013, he offered to purchase the disputed area from Buchanan (the “Offer”).

In 2014, Buchanan sued Gray for breach...

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