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Chukri v. Stalfort

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

October 16, 2017

ADAM A. CHUKRI, Appellant,
v.
JASON STALFORT and JANE DOE STALFORT, and their marital community, Respondents.

          Dwyer, J.

         When a defendant has a claim against the plaintiff which arises out of the same transaction or occurrence as the plaintiff's claim, and is logically related thereto, the defendant's claim is a compulsory counterclaim. Compulsory counterclaims must be pleaded in the existing lawsuit or be forfeited. Jason Stalfort sued Adam Chukri for damages incurred in a motor vehicle collision. The lawsuit settled without Chukri bringing any affirmative claims against Stalfort. Months later, Chukri filed this lawsuit against Stalfort, seeking damages arising out of the same collision. The trial court correctly dismissed the action. We affirm.

         I

         On August 29, 2013, Chukri and Stalfort were involved in a motor vehicle collision. Both parties claimed that the other party was at fault. Each party alleged that he suffered personal injuries as a result of the incident.

         In January 2015, Stalfort filed a personal injury suit against Chukri. Chukri's insurance company, Progressive Insurance Company, provided legal representation to Chukri for his defense against Stalfort's suit.[1] Defense counsel sent Chukri a letter informing him of his rights as an insured and advised him to speak directly to his own attorney about any questions or concerns that he might have. The letter explicitly stated:

I am only handling the defense of the lawsuit that has been brought against you. If you have a claim for damages against other parties involved in this lawsuit, I cannot represent you for such claims, but will cooperate fully with your personal attorney. If you intend to pursue a claim (or make a counterclaim or crossclaim), please contact your attorney immediately since strict time limitations may apply to such actions for damages. If you decide to pursue a claim, the attorney that you choose to represent you will be at your own expense.

         In addition, the letter included a copy of a standardized "Statement of Insured Client's Rights, " which also emphasized the importance of promptly retaining separate counsel to file any counterclaims that the insured might have against other parties to the lawsuit. The statement explicitly requested, in bold typeface, that the insured ask for an explanation from defense counsel if there was any uncertainty about the insured's rights pursuant to the insurance policy. Defense counsel also promised to cooperate fully with any attorney that Chukri chose to hire.

         Chukri did not contact a separate lawyer at that time, nor did he assert any counterclaim against Stalfort.

         Defense counsel began settlement negotiations with Stalfort's lawyers. In April 2015, defense counsel informed Chukri of a tentative settlement. After the subsequent settlement of the suit, Chukri received copies of Stalfort's signed release of claims and the trial court's order dismissing the lawsuit "with prejudice."

         Approximately eight months after the settlement, Chukri's newly retained lawyer filed a personal injury lawsuit against Stalfort. Stalfort, defended by lawyers financed by his insurance company, asserted that the settlement of the previous suit precluded Chukri's current claim. Stalfort filed a motion to dismiss, pursuant to CR 12(b)(6), asserting that Chukri's claim was a compulsory counterclaim, under CR 13(a), and was, thus, required to be pleaded in the prior action. Chukri argued that CR 13 did not bar his claim because the lawyers hired by Progressive controlled the litigation in the previous suit and he was, hence, unable to plead any counterclaims in that action. However, Chukri admitted that he knew that he had the responsibility to file any counterclaims himself or secure additional legal representation to do so on his behalf. Chukri never offered an explanation as to the reason for his untimely actions.

         The trial court dismissed Chukri's lawsuit, ruling that his claims were barred by CR 13(a).

         II.

         We review de novo an order granting a motion to dismiss under CR 12(b)(6). Jackson v. Quality Loan Serv. Corp.. 186 Wn.App. 838, 843, 347 P.3d 487, review denied. 184 Wn.2d 1011 (2015). A dismissal for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is appropriate when the plaintiff cannot prove "'any set of facts which would justify recovery."' FutureSelect Portfolio Mgmt.. Inc. v. Tremont Grp. Holdings. Inc.. 180 Wn.2d 954, 962, 331 P.3d 29 (2014) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Kinney v. Cook. 159 Wn.2d 837, 842, 154 P.3d ...


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