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Sun Mountain Productions Inc. v. Pierre

January 13, 1997

SUN MOUNTAIN PRODUCTIONS, INC.; RONALD LEITER AND LYNN LEITER, HUSBAND AND WIFE, AND THE MARITAL COMMUNITY COMPRISED THEREOF, RESPONDENTS,
v.
JAMES P. PIERRE AND BARBARA PIERRE, HUSBAND AND WIFE, AND THE MARITAL COMMUNITY COMPRISED THEREOF; WILLIAM JAMES PIERRE; AND MICHAEL SHANE PIERRE, APPELLANTS.



Appeal from Superior Court of King County. Docket No: 94-2-05391-4. Date filed: 06/30/95. Judge signing: Hon. Michael J. Fox.

Petition for Review Denied June 3, 1997,

Authored by H. Joseph Coleman. Concurring: Susan R. Agid, Ann L. Ellington.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman

COLEMAN, J. -- William (B.J.) Pierre, Shane Pierre, and Carl Siemering burglarized Sun Mountain Productions, Inc. Sun sued Shane and B.J.'s parents, James and Barbara Pierre, for negligent supervision of Shane, who was 16 at the time of the burglary. The Pierres brought a motion for summary judgment and a motion to strike several of the declarations containing inadmissible evidence. The court granted both motions, finding that the parents had no actual knowledge of Shane's criminal behavior and that the declarations contained inadmissible evidence. Sun appeals both motions, arguing that the court erred in applying a subjective standard of parental knowledge and in striking the entire declarations rather than merely the inadmissible portions. We find that the court erred in striking portions of the affidavits and hold that Washington case law and public policy support the adoption of an objective standard of parental liability. We therefore reverse because when the objective standard is applied, the admissible portions of the affidavits create material issues of fact sufficient to withstand summary judgment.

FACTS

B.J. and Shane admitted to their participation in the March 9, 1991, burglary of Sun. Because B.J. was 19 at the time of the burglary, Sun premises liability solely upon Shane's activities.

The Pierres submitted declarations of Shane, Barbara, and James in support of their motion for summary judgment. Shane declared that at the time of the burglary, he was a student a Woodinville High School and had never had problems in school. Shane also worked at the family-owned auto dealership, where he was responsible for depositing money. He declared that his parents never indicated that they did not trust him or that they had any knowledge of his criminal involvement before the burglary.

Barbara declared that Shane was a good student who excelled in sports and gave no indication of a drug or alcohol problem. Shane had a curfew of 11 p.m. on week nights and 1 a.m. on weekends at the time of the burglary. She did not see a change in her sons' activities or finances before or after the burglary.

James declared that Shane was a good student excelling in sports. Shane never gave James an indication of thievery, and James trusted him with the deposit money for the dealership. James declared that Shane had no altercation with the law before the Sun burglary and he did not know that Shane was involved in any thefts of any kind before the incident. He declared that the family always had car parts and stereos around the house because it was a significant part of the family auto business and both his sons had large personal stereo systems. Shane was also required to report where he was to his parents.

Sun offered declarations of Gordon Rechcygl, Dennis Metzger, Pat Haster, and Carl Siemering. The Pierres challenged the admissibility of these declarations, arguing that they contained inadmissible evidence. Sun admitted that these declarations contained some statements that were not admissible but argued certain portions were admissible.

For example, Sun argued that the following portions of Metzger's affidavit were admissible:

3. I have known defendants William James ("B.J.") and Michael Shane ("Shane") Pierre for approximately five years. I have visited the Pierre residence on several occasions.

4. In late 1990 and early 1991, Shane Pierre tried to sell me stolen car stereo speakers which he was storing in the Pierres' home.

I knew that the equipment was stolen because Shane relayed this fact to me. The stereo speakers and other stereo equipment were sitting out in the open in Shane's bedroom, and at least one box of equipment was as large as a hope chest. . . . This occurred prior to the March 9, 1991 Sun Mountain theft. Approximately 20 pieces of stereo equipment were stored in and around a hutch in the corner of his bedroom visible from the doorway, ...


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