Court awards product manufacturer attorney’s fees and costs incurred in defending product liability lawsuit.
May 20, 2022
In a lawsuit where Dylan Jackson and Jeff Sbaih defended a large nationally recognized refrigeration company, a Pierce County judge dismissed the plaintiff’s product defect claims and awarded our client all its attorney’s fees and costs incurred in defending the case under Washington’s frivolous lawsuit statute.
The plaintiff claimed a defect in a refrigerator caused a home fire and substantial damages. However, plaintiff’s own expert had authored a report before suit that was obtained in discovery revealing he never believed the fire occurred because of a defect. That begged the question – what basis did the plaintiff have to file suit in the first place?
RCW 4.84.185 is the controlling statute on frivolous actions and states that a prevailing party to be awarded attorney’s fees and costs for opposing a frivolous lawsuit. Whether an action is frivolous “shall be made upon motion by the prevailing party after a[n]…order on summary judgment…The judge shall consider all evidence presented at the time of the motion to determine whether the position of the nonprevailing party was frivolous and advanced without reasonable cause.” Id. An action is frivolous under RCW 4.84.185 if it cannot be supported by any rational argument on the law or facts. Goldmark v. McKenna, 172 Wn.2d 568, 582, 259 P.3d 1095 (2011). Moreover, “[n]othing in the statute requires a court to find that the action was brought in bad faith or for purposes of delay or harassment.” Highland Sch. Dist. No. 203 v. Racy, 149 Wn. App. 307, 311, 202 P.3d 1024, 1026 (2009).
After reviewing the evidence and the expert’s opinions, the court found the plaintiff never had a good faith basis to bring the lawsuit in the first place, and that the evidence showed the fire was still not caused by a defect. As a result, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay all attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the product manufacturer in defending against the claims asserted.