Superior Court of Clark County. Superior Court Docket No. 92-3-01173-2. Date Filed In Superior Court: February 15, 1995. Superior Court Judge Signing: Barbara Johnson.
Written By: Bridgewater, J, Concurred In By: Armstrong, J, Turner, J
ARMSTRONG, J. -- In contemplation of divorce, Arlynda Dugan-Gaunt and Chris Gaunt executed a property distribution agreement. Chris agreed to give Arlynda 40 percent of his future workers compensation benefits. The trial court modified the dissolution decree, ordering Chris's workers compensation attorney, Terry Barnett, and the insurer to disburse 40 percent of the benefits to Arlynda. Barnett and Chris sought to vacate the order and the trial court denied the motion. Because the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Barnett, and had no authority to order Chris to pay a portion of his benefits to Arlynda, we reverse.
Chris Gaunt and Arlynda Dugan-Gaunt executed a
property distribution agreement in contemplation of their divorce. Under the agreement, Chris agreed to pay Arlynda 40 percent of any future workers compensation settlement from an on-the-job injury he suffered before marriage. The trial court subsequently entered a dissolution decree.
Because Chris moved out of state and remarried, Arlynda believed that he would not pay the benefits to her. Arlynda sought court modification of the dissolution decree. The trial court ordered, as to the benefits, that:
Any settlement proceeds shall be allocated and disbursed as follows:
(3) Of the remaining balance, if any, the disbursement should be as follows: first, to Arlynda Dugan Gaunt, the sum of $2,311.64 shall be paid; of the remainder, 40% shall be paid to Arlynda Dugan Gaunt, and the remainder to Chris Fred Gaunt or such other individuals as he may designate. Payments to Arlynda Dugan-Gaunt shall be made to her by Crawford & Company or [Chris's] attorney, if any, in care of the following address . . . .
Crawford & Company adjusted Chris's compensation claim. In January 1995, Chris was awarded a permanent partial disability award. Chris and his worker's compensation attorney, Terry Barnett, then sought to vacate the modification order. The trial court denied the motion, and Chris and Barnett appeal.
Chris and Barnett argue that because RCW 51.32.040 prohibits the assignment of compensation benefits, the trial court's order is void. An order granting or denying a motion to vacate an order or judgment is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Northwest Land and Inv., Inc. v. New West Federal Sav. and Loan Ass'n., 64 Wash. ...