Hedger sued Lisa Groeschell for personal injuries sustained
in an automobile accident. After Hedger prevailed at
mandatory arbitration, Groeschell sought a jury trial de
novo. During the litigation, the court imposed several
thousand dollars in sanctions against Groeschell.
jury awarded Hedger less in damages than the arbitrator had
awarded. The trial court then determined that Groeschell had
not improved her position from the arbitration because the
amount of sanctions ordered against her, combined with
Hedger's damages, were greater than the arbitration
award. Accordingly, the court awarded Hedger attorney fees.
appeals the trial court's award of attorney fees to
Hedger. Because the trial court should not have considered
the sanctions it imposed against Groeschell when comparing
her postarbitration and posttrial positions, we reverse the
award of attorney fees.
also appeals the trial court's decision to sanction her
for raising the deception doctrine defense on the eve of
trial. Because we agree with the trial court that
Groeschell's actions constituted procedural bad faith, we
affirm the imposition of sanctions.
and Groeschell were in a car accident in September 2013.
Hedger proceeded straight through an intersection as
Groeschell started to make a left turn. The two vehicles
sued Groeschell for negligence. The case proceeded to
mandatory arbitration. Hedger prevailed at arbitration. The
arbitrator found Groeschell to be entirely at fault and
awarded Hedger $17, 880.10 in damages. The arbitrator later
amended that award to include $931.76 in statutory costs and
fees, for a total award of $18, 811.86.
requested a trial de novo. Prior to trial, the court
sanctioned Groeschell for failing to participate in good
faith in the mediation and failing to timely disclose expert
days before trial, Groeschell asserted a deception doctrine
defense. Groeschell withdrew the defense when she could not
produce written documents showing she had raised it at
arbitration. The court sanctioned her $3, 125 for procedural
jury returned a verdict for Hedger but found her to be five
percent at fault. It also found that her combined economic
and general damages totaled only $11, 200. Thus, Hedger's
total damage award at trial was $10, 640. The court awarded
$2, 162.15 in statutory costs. The three sanctions the court
imposed on Groeschell totaled $6, 147.49. The total judgment
after the trial de novo was $18, 949.64.
moved for attorney fees under MAR 7.3 on the ground that
Groeschell had not improved her position after the trial de
novo. The court agreed with Hedger and awarded her over $60,
000 in attorney fees.
appeals the award of sanctions based on the deception
doctrine defense and the trial court's award of attorney
fees under MAR 7.3.
argues that the trial court abused its discretion in
sanctioning her for raising the deception defense on the eve
of trial. Specifically, she argues that pleading a
contributory negligence defense satisfies any need to plead
the deception doctrine defense and that, regardless, Hedger
had sufficient notice that Groeschell intended to rely on the
deception doctrine. Because the deception doctrine raises
different issues than a general contributory negligence
defense, and Groeschell did not otherwise provide adequate
notice, we disagree.
trial court has the inherent authority to sanction a party
for "bad faith." State v. S.H., 102
Wn.App. 468, 475, 8 P.3d 1058 (2000). "Procedural bad
faith is unrelated to the merits of the case and refers to
'vexatious conduct during the course of
litigation.'" Rogerson Hiller Corp. v. Port of
Port Angeles, 96 Wn.App. 918, 928, 982 P.2d 131 (1999)
(quoting Jane P. Mallor, Punitive Attorneys' Fees for
Abuses of the Judicial System, 61 N.C. L. Rev. 613, 644
(1983)). The conduct can include delaying or disrupting
litigation. S.H., 102Wn; App. at 475. To support
sanctions under this inherent power, the trial court must
make a finding that the litigant acted in bad faith.
S.H., 102 Wn.App. at 475.
court reviews a trial court's decision to award sanctions
for an abuse of ...