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Pruczinski v. Ashby

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3

February 12, 2015

Kay L. Pruczinski et al., Appellants ,
Allen Ashby et al., Respondents

Page 383

Appeal from Spokane Superior Court. Docket No: 12-2-01637-7. Judge signing: Honorable Linda G Tompkins. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 09/11/2013.

Douglas D. Phelps (of Phelps & Associates PS ), for appellants.

Peter J. Johnson (of Johnson Law Group ), for respondents.

Authored by Robert E. Lawrence-Berrey. Concurring: Laurel H. Siddoway. Dissenting: Stephen M. Brown.


Page 384

[185 Wn.App. 880] Lawrence-Berrey, J.

¶ 1 At issue is whether Washington State has personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction over an Idaho police officer who

Page 385

allegedly assaulted an Idaho resident just within this state's border. The trial court ruled that Washington State lacked personal jurisdiction over Allen Ashby. Given the facts alleged, we hold that Washington has both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction. Also at issue is whether Washington should decline jurisdiction on the basis of comity. We hold that the record is insufficient for us to decide this issue. In summary, we reverse the order of dismissal and remand this matter to the trial court for it to exercise its discretion on whether to decline jurisdiction on the basis of comity.


¶ 2 Kay Pruczinski, a resident of Idaho, and Ricky Bell filed a complaint in Spokane County Superior Court against Allen Ashby, an Idaho state trooper, alleging that she sustained injuries and property damage during his arrest of her in Washington. The complaint specifically alleged that Trooper Ashby followed Ms. Pruczinski from the Idaho border into Washington, stopped her, ordered her out of Mr. Bell's car, broke the driver's side window, and attempted to drag her through the window after she refused to exit the car. She also alleged that during the search incident to arrest, Trooper Ashby " offensively touch[ed]" her in a " menacing and sexual manner." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 25. The amended complaint included causes of action for injury to property, intentional and negligent infliction of emotion distress, assault, battery, unlawful imprisonment, and civil rights violations under chapter 49.60 RCW.

¶ 3 Trooper Ashby moved to dismiss the complaint under CR 12(b)(1) and (2), claiming that Washington lacked both subject matter and personal jurisdiction over him because the allegations were based on his acts as an Idaho state [185 Wn.App. 881] employee in the performance of his duties. Specific to subject matter jurisdiction, he argued, as he does on appeal, that Idaho district courts have exclusive jurisdiction over tort claims against the State of Idaho and its employees under Idaho law. As to personal jurisdiction, Trooper Ashby argued that even though the conduct at issue occurred in Washington, nothing in the complaint established that Trooper Ashby made any purposeful act toward the forum state, and that " [t]he basic equities of the facts of this case mandate Idaho as the most suitable forum." CP at 56. Ms. Pruczinski countered that Washington has jurisdiction under our long-arm statute, RCW 4.28.185(1)(b), because the alleged tortious conduct occurred in this state.

¶ 4 As an initial matter, the trial court accepted the defense's concession that the stop occurred in Washington, noting, " [f]or purposes of our hearing today, ... the defense concedes ... that the [tortious conduct] took place ... in Washington." Report of Proceedings (RP) at 9. However, the court granted Trooper Ashby's motion to dismiss, finding it would violate due process to subject Trooper Ashby to Washington's jurisdiction when one of the key elements of the case was whether Trooper Ashby was acting within the scope of his employment as an Idaho state employee. The court reasoned:

And because we do have Idaho residents, because we do have a question of Idaho law and not only Idaho law but Idaho administrative determinations as to what is the scope of duty of an Idaho State Trooper in the Idaho State Patrol, it would not be fair for Washington to exercise personal jurisdiction over this individual.
This is all state line type of circumstances that, quite frankly, absent this question of scope of employment, would be more likely to be assumable, jurisdictionally assumable, in either state.
However, because of this clear question that stands in the way of determining whether an individual in this set of circumstances can be held personally liable, Idaho is by far the fairer jurisdiction to answer those questions.

[185 Wn.App. 882] RP at 27-28. The court's order clarified its basis of dismissal was under CR 12(b)(2), lack of personal ...

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