Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Schroeder v. Weighall

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

January 16, 2014

Jaryd SCHROEDER, Appellant,
v.
Steven WEIGHALL, M.D., and Columbia Basin Imaging, P.C., a Washington corporation, Respondents, and Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Defendant.

Page 483

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 484

George E. Telquist, Telquist Ziobro McMillen, PLLC, Richland, WA, for Appellant.

Christopher John Mertens, Miller Mertens & Comfort PLLC, Kennewick, WA, Mary H. Spillane, Daniel W. Ferm, Williams Kastner & Gibbs PLLC, Seattle, WA, for Respondents.

Bryan Patrick Harnetiaux, Attorney at Law, Spokane, WA, George M. Ahrend, Ahrend Albrecht PLLC, Ephrata, WA, Amicus Curiae on behalf of Washington State Association for Justice Foundation.

GORDON McCLOUD, J.

[179 Wn.2d 569] ¶ 1 Petitioner Jaryd Schroeder challenges the constitutionality of RCW 4.16.190(2), which eliminates tolling of the statute of limitations for minors in the context of medical malpractice claims. We hold that RCW 4.16.190(2) violates article I, section 12 of the Washington State Constitution, and we therefore reverse the trial court's summary judgment order dismissing Schroeder's medical malpractice action.

FACTS

¶ 2 On May 22, 2001, Schroeder sought treatment from the respondents, Dr. Steven Weighall and Columbia Basin Imaging. Schroeder was nine years old at the time and suffered from headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness in his legs, and double vision. He underwent an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), which Weighall reviewed and found to be normal. Schroeder's symptoms persisted.

¶ 3 On either November 9 or 19, 2009,[1] when he was 17, Schroeder underwent another MRI. This time the radiologist who reviewed the image found an [179 Wn.2d 570]Arnold Chiari Type I Malformation, a condition in which brain tissue protrudes into the spinal canal. The radiologist also reviewed the 2001 MRI and concluded that the condition had been present to the same extent at that time.

¶ 4 On January 13, 2011, the day before his 19th birthday, Schroeder filed a medical malpractice action against Weighall, Columbia Basin Imaging, PC, and a third party subsequently dismissed by stipulation. Weighall asserted that the action was barred by the statute of limitations codified at RCW 4.16.350 and subject to the minority tolling exemption codified at RCW 4.16.190(2). [2]

¶ 5 RCW 4.16.350 provides that a lawsuit alleging medical malpractice must be filed within three years of the " act or omission" giving rise to the claim or one year after the patient " discovered or reasonably should have discovered" that the injury was caused by the act or omission in question. The statute also imputes a parent's or guardian's knowledge to the injured minor. RCW 4.16.350. RCW 4.16.190(1) provides that the statute of limitations applicable to any legal action shall be tolled during a plaintiff's minority, incompetency, or incarceration, but

Page 485

RCW 4.16.190(2) eliminates tolling for minors in medical malpractice actions.

¶ 6 Schroeder and his mother discovered Weighall's alleged omission in November 2009. On that date, Schroeder was still a minor. If not for RCW 4.16.190(2), the one-year statute of limitations applicable to his claim would have tolled until his 18th birthday on January 14, 2010. In reality, the combined effect of RCW 4.16.350 and .190(2) [179 Wn.2d 571] placed Schroeder's January 13, 2011 filing date about two months outside the statute of limitations. On that basis, the trial court dismissed his action.[3]

¶ 7 Schroeder appealed the dismissal directly to this court, arguing that RCW 4.16.190(2) violated article I, section 10 and article I, section 12 of the Washington State Constitution.

ANALYSIS

Standard of Review

¶ 8 We review the constitutionality of a statute de novo. Kitsap County v. Mattress Outlet, 153 Wash.2d 506, 509, 104 P.3d 1280 (2005) (citing Ino Ino, Inc. v. City of Bellevue, 132 Wash.2d 103, 114, 937 P.2d 154, 943 P.2d 1358 (1997)). Because we conclude that RCW 4.16.190(2) violates article I, section 12, we do not address Schroeder's article I, section 10 challenge.

Article I, Section 12

¶ 9 Article I, section 12 of the Washington Constitution provides that " [n]o law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations." As we have noted in several recent cases, this court has construed article I, section 12 as " substantially similar" to the federal equal protection clause for many, many years. Seeley v. State, 132 Wash.2d 776, 788, 940 P.2d 604 (1997) (collecting cases). In Grant County Fire Protection District No. 5 v. City of Moses Lake, 145 Wash.2d 702, 735, 42 P.3d 394 (2002) ( Grant County I ), rev'd in part by [179 Wn.2d 572] Grant County Fire Protection District No. 5 v. City of Moses Lake, 150 Wash.2d 791, 812, 83 P.3d 419 (2004) ( Grant County II ), however, we also recognized that article I, section 12 differed from and was more protective than the federal equal protection clause and required a very different analysis in certain situations. The Grant County cases acknowledged our state constitution's particular concern with the " undue political influence" exercised by a privileged few and drew on early decisions addressing that concern through the reasonable ground analysis. Grant County II, 150 Wash.2d at 805-11, 83 P.3d 419.[4]

1. RCW 4.16.190(2) Grants an " Immunity" under Article I, Section 12

¶ 10 In Grant County I, we held that article I, section 12, unlike the federal equal protection clause, applies to special interest legislation— laws that confer a benefit on a privileged or influential minority. Grant County I, 145 Wash.2d at 731, 42 P.3d 394. In the second Grant County case, we modified that holding, recognizing that that independent " privileges" analysis applies only

Page 486

where a law implicates a " privilege" or " immunity" as defined in our early cases distinguishing the " ‘ fundamental rights' " of state citizenship. Grant County II, 150 Wash.2d at 812-13, 83 P.3d 419 (quoting State v. Vance, 29 Wash. 435, 458, 70 P. 34 (1902)).

¶ 11 After Grant County II, we have subjected legislation to a two-part test under this " privileges" prong of article I, [179 Wn.2d 573]section 12 analysis. First, we ask whether a challenged law grants a " privilege" or " immunity" for purposes of our state constitution. Grant County II, 150 Wash.2d at 812, 83 P.3d 419. If the answer is yes, then we ask whether there is a " reasonable ground" for granting that privilege or immunity. Grant I, 145 Wash.2d at 731, 42 P.3d 394.

¶ 12 Not every benefit constitutes a " privilege" or " immunity" for purposes of the independent article I, section 12 analysis. Rather, the benefits triggering that analysis are only those implicating " fundamental rights ... of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.