Defense Win
Thursday, February 29, 2024
by: Michael B. King and Jason W. Anderson of Carney Badley Spellman, PS

Section: Winter 2024

Michael B. King and Jason W. Anderson of Carney Badley Spellman, PS, recently obtained a defense win on appeal for their client, a defunct company that dismantled World War Two-era ships. The plaintiff alleged that he was exposed to asbestos while dismantling ships as an employee of another company. He asserted that the defendant owed him a duty because it allegedly owned the ships his employer dismantled and co-signed his employer’s lease for the job site. He asserted that the defendant had spoliated records that would have confirmed that it owned the ships. The trial court gave an adverse inference instruction.

Carney Badley’s appellate group assisted with error preservation on these and other issues during the trial. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment on the jury’s $11.2 million verdict and remanded for a new trial on both liability and damages. The court held that the spoliation instruction was unwarranted because the defendant had no duty to preserve the documents and no evidence supported culpability for their destruction. In addition, the court limited the defendant’s duty to the ships it owned, if any, and not the entire jobsite as the plaintiff claimed. The Supreme Court denied review of the Court of Appeals’ decision. 

Buckholtz v. Am. Optical Corp., 25 Wn. App. 2d 1024, 2023 WL 369414 (2023), review denied sub nom. Estate of Woodruff v. Am. Optical Corp., 1 Wash. 3d 1022 (Wash. 2023).