United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Seattle School
District No. 1's (“District” or
“Defendant”) motion for partial summary judgment.
Dkt. # 11. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. Dkt. # 14. For the
reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS the
case arises from the District's treatment of
Plaintiffs' child, J.W., who is a student with
disabilities. See generally Dkt. # 9 (First Amended
Complaint). Plaintiffs claim that the District failed to
provide J.W. Free and Appropriate Public Education, excluding
him from campus since February 2014. Dkt. # 14 at 2.
Plaintiffs incurred expenses when they placed J.W. in a
private educational setting, which the District reimbursed in
part subsequent to an administrative order. Id. at
4; Dkt. # 11 at 2-3.
District now moves the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs'
pending state claims because the District argues that
Plaintiffs failed to abide by Washington's notice
statutes. The District also seeks dismissal of
Plaintiffs' federal claims because the District claims
Plaintiffs failed to show a specific, separate, and direct
injury associated with the District's alleged
judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving
party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving
party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must
affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact
could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v.
Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir.
2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely
by pointing out to the district court that there is an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's
case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving
party meets the initial burden, the opposing party must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of
fact for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The court
must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000).
the court need not, and will not, “scour the record in
search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan
v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see
also, White v. McDonnel-Douglas Corp., 904 F.2d 456, 458
(8th Cir. 1990) (the court need not “speculate on which
portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it
obliged to wade through and search the entire record for some
specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's
claim”). The opposing party must present significant
and probative evidence to support its claim or defense.
Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co.,
952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991). Uncorroborated
allegations and “self-serving testimony” will not
create a genuine issue of material fact. Villiarimo v.
Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir.
2002); T.W. Elec. Serv. V. Pac Elec. Contractors
Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).
Substantial Compliance with RCW 4.96.020
Plaintiffs may sue the District for tort violations, they
must first file a claim for damages. RCW 4.96.010(1). To file
a claim for damages, Plaintiffs must follow the requirements
outlined in RCW 4.96.020, which include, among other things,
filing a form that “describes the conduct and
circumstances that brought about the injury or
damages”, describes the injury or damages, and states
the amount of damages claimed. RCW 4.96.020(3)(a)(ii), (iii),
(vi). The Legislature requires courts to liberally construe
these requirements and directs that “substantial
compliance will be deemed satisfactory.” RCW
4.96.020(5). “Substantial compliance” is met when
parties follow a statute in a way that satisfies the
“intent for which the statute was adopted.”
Lee v. Metro Parks Tacoma, 183 Wash.App. 961, 968,
335 P.3d 1014, 1017 (2014) (quoting Banner Realty, Inc.
v. Dep't of Revenue, 48 Wash.App. 274, 278, 738 P.2d
278 (1987)). “The purpose of claim filing statutes is
to ‘allow government entities time to investigate,
evaluate, and settle claims.'” Id. at 968
(quoting Medina v. Public Utility District No. 1 of
Benton County, 147 Wash.2d 303, 310, 53 P.3d 993
(2002)). Notably, claim filing statutes “were not meant
to be ‘gotcha' statutes.” Garza v. City
of Yakima, No. 13-CV-3031-TOR, 2014 WL 2452815, at *5
(E.D. Wash. June 2, 2014) (citations omitted). They
“require notice to the government, but eliminate
the barnacles of judicial bureaucracy.” Id.
District argues that Plaintiffs have not substantially
complied with RCW 4.96.020's requirements. Plaintiffs
cite their communications with the District spanning from
February 2014 to May 2016 as evidence of their compliance.
Dkt. # 14 at 6-7. But these communications were in
furtherance of settlement negotiations and proceedings
specific to that time period. See, e.g., Dkt. # 15
at 6-12 (letter from Plaintiffs' counsel to District
regarding information to consider for the Due Process
matter). It does not appear from the record before this Court
that Plaintiffs sufficiently placed the District on notice
that Plaintiffs were going to file this lawsuit in federal
court. Moreover, it appears from the record submitted that
the District had been open to negotiating a settlement with
the Plaintiffs in their past interactions, and therefore may
have been amenable to settlement of the instant claims.
Settling claims prior to bringing a federal lawsuit is a
fundamental purpose behind the notice statute at issue.
Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have not
substantially complied with RCW 4.96.020 to place the
District on notice of their tort claims in this lawsuit. The
Court therefore GRANTS the motion with
regard to Plaintiffs' claims for negligence and outrage.
Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)
District contends a WLAD claim sounds in tort and therefore
Plaintiffs were required to comply with RCW 4.96.020 prior to
bringing this claim. Dkt. # 18 at 7. Plaintiffs argue that
their WLAD claim is not subject to the notice statute. Dkt. #
14 at 7-8. Plaintiffs are incorrect. Washington courts
recognize WLAD claims as arising from tortious conduct, and
therefore RCW 4.96.020's notice requirements apply.
See Sutherland v. Kitsap Cty., No. C05-5462RJB, 2006
WL 1799050, at *2 (W.D. Wash. June 28, 2006) (dismissing a
WLAD for failure to meet RCW 4.96.020's requirements);
Washington State Commc'n Access Project v. Regal
Cinemas, Inc., 173 Wash.App. 174, 224, 293 P.3d 413, 439
(2013) (finding that RCW 4.96.020 applied to tort claims,
including WLAD claims) (citing Hintz v. Kitsap
County, 92 Wash.App. 10, 960 P.2d 946 (1998));