Through its extensive appellate practice the Stritmatter Firm has made a difference in how the law protects the public. These decisions include some of the most important cases in State history that involve plaintiffs’ rights to access the courts and jury system. Below is a summary of some of the most important cases in Washington State history. A full list of the Stritmatter Firm’s appellate work can be found here.
Many lawyers agree that Sofie is the most significant personal injury case ever decided by our state Supreme Court. At issue in Sofie was whether or not a statute that limited the amount of noneconomic damages that an injured plaintiff could recover violated the state constitutional right to trial by jury. The Supreme Court ruled that this statute was unconstitutional and that the amount of damages to be awarded to a personal injury plaintiff rests with the jury, not the State Legislature. This decision preserved the right of every person to be fully heard in their own unique circumstance, and not broadly and arbitrarily diminished.
In Soproni, a 20-month old toddler fell out of a second floor bedroom window, which was designed to easily open. The window manufacturer claimed that it did not need to consider child safety when designing products and instead only had to comply with minimum building and fire codes. The Supreme Court decided that a product manufacturer’s responsibility to design safe products requires it to carefully consider the product’s purpose and users. The manufacturer cannot excuse its failure to design safe products by saying that it meets minimum codes.
The Magana case set new standards for a defendant’s duty to cooperate with court investigations, and reinforced the consequences for not doing so. Jesse Magana became a paraplegic due to a defectively designed Hyundai seat. Hyundai then attempted to deceive his lawyers at the Stritmatter firm during their investigation, but the firm discovered the deception and brought it to the judge. The judge determined that Hyundai gave false answers to discovery questions and destroyed evidence. Hyundai’s conduct was so bad and so harmful to Magana, as a sanction the judge granted a default judgment to prevent Hyundai from defending the case. Hyundai appealed and the Supreme Court examined the entire case and affirmed the default judgment as a sanction.
The Magana decision is now universally cited as the standard for a party’s conduct and duties in the discovery phase of lawsuits.