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Congrats to Our Newest Senior Associates

Congrats to Our Newest Senior Associates
We would like to congratulate Kasie Kashimoto and Chance Laboda on their promotions to Senior Associates this week. Kasie and Chance were classmates at Seattle University School of Law, and have both been with Lether Law Group since becoming licensed attorneys.
Chance is a Seattle native and earned his Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law where he served as the Vice President of the Business and Entrepreneurial Law Association. While attending law school, Chance externed at the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Banks and was a Rule 9 intern for Hughes Robbins P.S. Chance’s experience includes coverage and litigation of disputes arising from commercial general liability, commercial auto, personal auto and business owners insurance policies. Chance’s litigation practice includes cases before the Washington State Court of Appeals, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, United States Judicial Panel on Multijurisdictional Litigation, and class action litigation.


Kasie is from Honolulu, Hawaii, and earned her Juris Doctor from Seattle University School of Law where she also graduated cum laude. While attending law school, Kasie externed at the District Court of the First Circuit in Honolulu, Hawaii for Judge Dean E. Ochiai. Kasie’s experience includes coverage and litigation of disputes arising from commercial general liability, business owners, public entity, automobile, and watercraft insurance policies. Kasie’s litigation practice includes cases before the Washington State Court of Appeals, United States Judicial Panel on Multijurisdictional Litigation, and class action litigation. Kasie actively practices in both Washington and Hawaii.


Kasie and Chance!

Duck Duck Goose – Wildlife at Lether Law Group

Located directly on the water, the Lether Law Group office is often visited by wildlife. As she does every year, a mother goose came to lay her eggs in the planter on the deck earlier this spring. This month, a mother duck did the same. When it came time for the duck babies to join their mom in the water this week, the height of our deck presented a challenge for the small and fragile ducklings. We are pleased to announce that after a successful rescue mission, all ducklings were safely reunited with their mother in the water. We wish them luck on their new adventure, and hope they come back to visit.

Lether Law Group’s Landmark Cases

Lether Law Group’s Landmark Cases


Over the course of the past 10 years, Lether Law Group has represented hundreds of clients throughout the country, and we are diligently focused on getting them results. We don’t take winning lightly, and this mentality has brought hundreds of wins for our clients. You can read articles about a variety of our previous cases by visiting the blog on our website and browsing through the different categories. The following is a small sample of just a handful of the successful results that we have attamed for our clients in recent years.

The H.D.D. Co. Inc. v. Navigators Specialty Ins. Co  This case addressed duty to defend under Oregon law arising from a contractual dispute between a general contractor and a subcontractor with regard to a natural gas reservoir expansion project. The general contractor instituted an arbitration against the subcontractor asserting breach of contract claims based on a dispute over payment for work done by the subcontractor. The subcontractor tendered a claim for defense to Navigators. When the tender was rejected, the subcontractor filed a lawsuit against Navigators. The subcontractor argued that the duty to defend was triggered based on allegations asserted in the arbitration regarding project delays and defective work performed by the subcontractor.  After cross-motions for summary judgment were filed by the parties, the United States District Court for the District of Oregon held that Navigators did not owe a duty to defend the subcontractor because the arbitration did not assert a claim for “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” under the terms of the policy.  Rather, the claims asserted against the subcontractor sought breach of contract damages due to an alleged delay in completing the work set forth in the contract. The Court explained that breach of an agreed timeline in a contract is not an “occurrence” or accident and an allegedly defective component installed at the project does not constitute “property damage,” even if the defect resulted in additional project costs.

Baldwin v. Silver – This is a published case from Division III of the Washington State Court of Appeals involving a homeowner’s claims for coverage following a fire loss.  The Court of Appeals decision is particularly important in reinforcing the insured’s burden of proof in regard to claims of bad faith and violation of the Consumer Protection Act.  In support of their claims that a deck needed to be removed and replaced as a result of the insurer’s alleged delays in investigating the loss, the insureds relied solely on a Declaration of one of the insureds.  The Superior Court for Pend O’Reille County and the Court of Appeals found that the self-serving Declaration was insufficient to meet the insured’s burden of proof on the extra-contractual claims.  This holding remains good law and is often cited by practitioners and the courts.

Waters Edge Homeowner’s Associate v. Mid-Century Insurance Company­ – ­An insurance company, properly defending under a reservation of rights does not act in bad faith when it is relying on defense counsel’s evaluation of the claims against the insured when it rejects an unreasonable settlement demand.  This was a highly complex insurance bad faith case involving a covenant judgment settlement, with an assignment of rights, involving construction defect claims at a Vancouver, WA condominium complex.  Regardless, however, of the procedural complexities, the Court of Appeals – Division II – held that the insurer was not placing its financial interests ahead of its insured and affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit.

Gallagher v. Fire Insurance Exchange ­– This matter was tried to a jury in Skagit County, Washington in January of 2019.  The Plaintiff alleged that the insurer had breached the contract, acted in bad faith, and violated the Insurance Fair Conduct and Consumer Protection Acts in its handling of her homeowners insurance claim following a fire loss.  Although the insurer ultimately paid the policy limits for the damage to the structure, the Plaintiff alleged bad faith in the form of delays and in regard to her Additional Living Expense claim.  The Plaintiff further alleged that she had been exposed to toxic “isocyanites” inside the dwelling when the insurer “forced” her to enter the structure after the loss.  After a two week trial, the jury returned a defense verdict within two hours.

The Standard Fire Insurance Company v. Lange – This was a dispute regarding the availability of Homeowners’ insurance coverage for a suit against the insureds by their now-adult adopted daughter alleging years of sexual and physical abuse.  The insured’s claimed that the exclusions for sexual molestation and corporal abuse should not operate to bar coverage because the efficient proximate cause of the damages being alleged by the underlying plaintiff was the negligent act of leaving certain disclosures out of the insured’s adoption applications that allegedly led to the underlying plaintiff being placed with the insureds.  This argument was rejected on summary judgment and the Court found that there was no coverage available for the claims asserted against the insureds.

Northwest Pipe Company v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America and The Phoenix Insurance Company (3:17-cv-05098-BHS) – This case addresses an insureds claim for bad faith and Consumer Protection act violations arising from a dispute between the Greater Vancouver Water District and Northwest Pipe Company. Specifically, Northwest Pipe entered into a supply contract with the District for the manufacture and supply of steel liner and grout plugs for the Project. Subsequently, there were multiple failures of the circumferential welds used to seal the grout plugs to the steel liner. As a result, the projects general contractor had to redesign the method for sealing the grout ports. The District alleged that this resulted in a delay in the construction of the Project. Northwest Pipe then tendered a claim to Travelers.

On Summary Judgment, the Honorable Benjamin Settle of the Tacoma District granted Travelers’ summary judgment motion dismissing Northwest Pipe’s bad faith and Consumer Protection Act claims. In Northwest Pipe, Travelers correctly identified a tender from the named insured, agreed to assign counsel, and issued a timely and thorough reservation of rights letter. Northwest Pipe argued that Travelers was obligated to pay for the insured’s personal counsel who had allegedly assisted in the defense of Northwest Pipe. Northwest Pipe also argued that the reservation of rights letter issued by Travelers was untimely. Taking the position that Travelers had denied the claim and had failed to investigate coverage in a reasonable manner, Northwest Pipe argued that Travelers was precluded from raising coverage defenses based upon the doctrine of coverage by estoppel. Judge Settle rejected this argument and denied Northwest Pipe’s motion and granted Travelers’ motion for summary judgment.

The Court found that Travelers was not obligated to respond to the alleged claim for the insured’s personal counsel’s fees and Travelers’ position in regard to that claim was reasonable. The Court also noted that the remedy of coverage by estoppel is a drastic remedy that would not have been applicable even if the court had found a question of fact in regard to the bad faith claim. In regard to the coverage by estoppel issue, the Court’s decision was consistent with the decision in Ledcor Indus. (USA), Inc. v. Mut. of Enumclaw Ins. Co., 150 Wn. App. 1, 10, 206 P.3d 1255, 1261, (2009), wherein the court found that coverage by estoppel does not apply in all cases and that an insured still must establish actual damage for a bad faith claim.

Germack, DDS v. The Dentists Insurance Company – When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020 and the governor of the State of Washington issued his first, “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Order, businesses immediately turned to their property insurance carriers seeking coverage for Business Interruption losses.  Amongst them was Dr. Mark Germack, a Seattle are endodontist, who claimed that The Dentists Insurance Company (TDIC) should provide him with insurance benefits for the loss of business revenue that he suffered in the early months of the pandemic.  The Germack case was designated as a national class action and implicated billions of dollars in potential claims.  Lether Law Group was successful in first defeating an effort to consolidate the Germack  matter before the Joint Panel for Multi-District Litigation and then in securing a summary judgment ruling from the Western District of Washington finding that there is no coverage available to Dr. Germack under the TDIC policy.  The Court found that COVID-19 does not cause “direct physical loss of or damage to” property and that the policy’s virus exclusion also precludes coverage.  This decision impacts dozens of pending Washington cases and cases throughout the nation.

Clear Creek Retirement Plan v. Foremost Insurance Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan­ –  In this case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a Western District of Washington summary judgment grant to Foremost in a claim involving the alleged theft of modular homes in North Dakota.  The insured partnered with a third-party to develop land in North Dakota and to place modular homes on that land in and around areas where the fracking industry had caused a sudden need for additional housing.  The insured get into a lengthy and acrimonious business dispute with the partner, ultimately culminating in the partner selling several of the modular homes in order to cover alleged business losses.  The insured made a claim under a commercial mobile home policy, claiming that the modular homes had been stolen.  Foremost denied the claim on the basis that the actions taken in the business dispute did not constitute a covered “theft”.  The insured then brought bad faith and IFCA claims against Foremost based on the denial of coverage.  The District Court and the Ninth Circuit held that there was no unreasonable denial of coverage or benefits because the loss of the modular homes was no covered and therefore dismissed the bad faith and IFCA claims.

Norris v. Farmers Insurance Company of Washington et al. – In Norris, Division I of the Washington State Court of Appeals addressed an insurer’s and agent’s legal duty in the context of automobile liability insurance. The Washington Courts had repeatedly held that insurance agents and brokers do not have any legal duty to recommend specific policy limits to an insured absent what is commonly referred to as a “special relationship.”  However, before Norris, Division I had not addressed this is in regard to automobile insurance. Regardless, the Court rejected the argument that a duty exists because an insurer has some obligation to train and supervise its agents.   The insureds also argued that marketing materials that had been utilized by agents and Farmers created an implied duty.  The Court likewise rejected this argument, and did not accept the marketing theory as creating a legal duty.

If you would like to discuss or have any questions about our work and services, please feel free to contact our office.

The Western District of Washington Dismisses All Pending Covid-19 Business Interruption Cases

On May 28, 2021, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued an Order Granting Motions to Dismiss, which given various consolidations effectively dismissed 60+ COVID-19 Business Interruption cases, including in Germack v. The Dentists Insurance Company, Cause No. 2:20-cv-00616.

The Business Income Loss coverage in the policies issued by the multiple defendant insurers provides coverage for loss of business income due to a necessary suspension of operations because of “direct physical loss of or damage to the insured premises,” caused by a “covered cause of loss.”  The Court focused its analysis on whether COVID-19 has caused “direct physical loss of or damage to” the insured premises and whether virus exclusions operate to eliminate COVID-19 as a “covered cause of loss.”

Regarding the first issue, the Court engages in a thorough analysis of what it is that constitutes “direct physical loss of or damage to” insured property, paying particular attention to the distinction between the terms “loss” and “damage”.  As to the term “damage”, the Court rejected the argument that the average purchaser of insurance would believe that COVID-19 causes damage because it contaminates and therefore alters physical surfaces.  The Court ultimately agreed with other Courts throughout the country, holding as follows:

The Court rejects this interpretation of direct physical damage. As numerous courts have recognized, “COVID-19 hurts people, not property,” . . . as “the pandemic impacts human health and human behavior, not physical structures,”. . . The Court concludes that COVID-19 does not cause direct physical damage to property as the term is used in the insurance policies.

Regarding the term “loss”, the Court concluded that when combined with ‘direct’ and ‘physical’, “’loss’ means that the alleged peril must set into motion events which cause inability to physically own or manipulate the property, such as theft or total destruction.”  The Court further noted that interpreting the policy to require tangible dispossession is consistent with insurance law doctrine holding that all-risk policies are intended to cover damage to property rather than economic losses.

In regard to the applicability of the Virus exclusions, the Court first rejected the argument that there is somehow a distinction between a “virus” and a “pandemic.”  The Court then addressed the Plaintiff Group’s efficient proximate cause argument, finding that under Washington law, the efficient proximate cause of the Business Income losses was not the governmental proclamations, but the virus itself.  Finally, the Court rejected a regulatory estoppel argument, finding that it would not recognize a rule that the Washington Supreme Court has not adopted.

Honorable Barbara Rothstein’s Order, which can be accessed here, is amongst the most comprehensive in the nation, and is likely to serve as teaching material in law schools for years to come.
Lether Law Group represents The Dentists Insurance Company in the Germack matter, which was designated as a national class action for dentists impacted by COVID-19.

Lether Law Group is also currently representing several other insurers in COVID-19 business interruption litigation in state, federal, and tribal courts in Washington, Oregon, California, and Pennsylvania amongst others. If you would like to discuss or have any questions about COVID-19 business interruption claims and/or litigation, please feel free to contact our office.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend from Lether Law Group

On this Memorial Day weekend, Lether Law Group salutes all of the brave servicemen and women who have given their lives protecting our great nation.

Our office will be closed on Monday, May 31st in observance of this important holiday. To all of our clients, colleagues, and friends, Lether Law Group wishes everyone a very happy and safe Memorial Day!