United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ROMERO HEAD, as the court-appointed Personal Representative of the Estate of ROMEO A. HEAD, Plaintiff,
DISTTECH, LLC, et al., Defendants.
ORDER RE: MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Motions for Partial Summary
Judgment filed by the parties. Dkts. #76 and #78. Plaintiff -
as the personal representative of Mr. Head's estate -
filed this lawsuit under Washington's wrongful death and
survival statutes, seeking to recover damages on behalf of
Mr. Head's alleged surviving children: Ariel Head,
Arianna Head, A.H., R.H., T.G., K.H., and J.M. See
Dkt. #41. The instant Motions seek the Court's
determination of whether the minors T.G., J.M. and K.H. have
standing to recover under Washington's wrongful death and
survival statutes given an apparent lack of sufficient
evidence in the record to establish that they are the minor
children of the decedent Romeo A. Head.
point out that the only evidence produced in discovery to
establish Mr. Head's paternity of T.G., J.M., and K.H.
was the following:
(1) that these minors are receiving benefits from Social
Security as a result of his death;
(2) that these minors are receiving benefits from an
occupational accident insurance policy as a result of his
(3) the deposition testimony of their mothers claiming Mr.
Head was their father, and
(4) DNA test results finding Mr. Head is their father.
Dkt. #76 at 2-3. According to Defendants, this is
insufficient evidence to seek damages for wrongful death or
survival benefits on the behalf of these minors under
Washington's wrongful death statute, RCW 4.20.010,
general survival statute, RCW 4.20.046, and the special
survival statute, RCW 4.20.060. Id. at 3, 9-10.
Defendants admit that “[t]he wrongful death statute
does not specifically identify what evidence is required to
prove, in this case, the paternity of the decedent.”
Id. Defendants urge the Court to apply the
evidentiary test found in the Washington Uniform Parentage
Act (“WUPA”). The WUPA “applies to
determinations of parentage in this state.” RCW
26.26.021. Ways to establish a parent-child relationship
include “an adjudication of the person's parentage,
” but the statute does not explicitly include the above
types of evidence produced by Plaintiff in discovery.
See RCW 26.26.101. Defendants argue that this is
dispositive to Plaintiff's ability to recover both
wrongful death and survival benefits on behalf of T.G., J.M.,
and K.H. Dkt. #76.
Defendants filed their Motion, Plaintiff separately moved the
Court for an order establishing that T.G., J.M., and K.H are
the children of Romeo Head based solely on the evidence
originally produced to Defendants. Dkt. #78. Although
Defendants disagree, such a Court Order might satisfy the
statutory requirements identified above. However, the Court
finds that Plaintiff's Motion is moot given subsequent
Response to Defendants' Motion, Plaintiff stated
“although we dispute any denial that these boys are the
children of Romeo Head, we are proceeding with the filing of
an action under the WUPA to protect the important and just
rights of T.G., K.H. and J.M.” Dkt. #80 at 9; see
also Dkt #78 at 7.
Reply, Defendants argue that “any attempt to adjudicate
Mr. Head's parentage at this stage is barred by the
applicable statute of limitations.” Dkt. #82 at 7
(citing RCW 26.26.530(1)).
has subsequently obtained state court adjudications of
parentage showing that the decedent is the parent of T.G.,
K.H., and J.M. Dkts. #87-1; #87-2; and #87-3. These
adjudications are dated January 4, 2018. Id.
Defendants attempted to intervene and seek reconsideration in
those state court proceedings but were denied. See
Dkt. #94-1. Nonetheless, the state court considered
Defendants' substantive arguments and found no basis to
reconsider its rulings. Id.
have filed a Surreply objecting to the admission of these
adjudications into the record, considering that they were not
previously disclosed in initial disclosures or produced in
discovery. Dkt. #91. The Court notes that these adjudications
were obtained in response to Defendants' arguments on
summary judgment, were filed on the docket five days after
the adjudications, and could not have been produced earlier
in discovery. These adjudications were not obtained in bad
faith, but rather to ensure that there was no procedural bar
for the Court to conclude what is otherwise obvious from the
record-that T.G., K.H., and J.M are the children of the
decedent. The delay was thus substantially justified. While
there may have been a more procedurally appropriate method
for Plaintiff to present this evidence to the Court,
Defendants raise no valid argument for striking this
evidence, and the Court concludes that good cause exists to
consider it. Any delay or procedural error by Plaintiff did
not unduly prejudice Defendants, given that the adjudications
were put on the record prior to the close of discovery,
see Dkt. #68, and Defendants were put on notice that
Plaintiff would attempt to obtain this evidence prior to the
dispositive motion deadline, see Dkts. #25 and #80
at 9. Defendants have had an opportunity to respond to this
evidence with procedural and substantive arguments.
See Dkts. #82 and #91.
Court finds that Plaintiff now has the necessary evidence of
parentage to satisfy Washington State's wrongful death
and survival statutes. This is sufficient to deny
Defendants' Motion. Defendants' statute of
limitations and standing arguments related to the
adjudications, see Dkt. #91 at 4, are not properly
before this Court. The Court concludes that it need
not address Plaintiff's arguments in its ...