Before Washington’s Statute of Repose

January 4, 2008

On January 3, 1923 the Allen Street Bridge in Kelso, Washington collapsed. More than 35 people were originally estimated to have been killed although the actual number may have been less than that. Shortly after that a bridge in Issaquah collapsed due to a design defect. In each instance lawsuits were brought by the injured and on behalf of the deceased and the Washington State Supreme Court, finding rather substantial negligence, allowed recovery.

Recovery for injury, death and damage caused by design defects or construction defects was possible at that time, but would not now be possible, no matter how many people were killed or injured. In the late 1960’s the Washington legislature passed a construction statute of repose which barred any action whatsoever related to construction if the claim arose six years or more after the completion of the construction. If a school or bridge collapses more than six years after completion there is no recourse in Washington for construction or design defects.

In the 1990’s there was a great deal of difficulty arising from condominium construction, often in connection with defective materials. The Washington legislature’s response to that was to pass a construction statute of repose that barred any lawsuits related to defective condominium construction — whether negligent orĀ  even involvingmintentional violations of the law — arising more than 4 years after completion of the condominium project.

Foreclosure Rescue Scams

January 4, 2008

Washington, like most other states, is beset with scams to cheat homeowners out of the equity in their homes. With rising interest rates and increasing signs of economic downturn the number of foreclosures is rising at a startling rate. On a significant scale criminals are taking advantage of distressed homeowners by offering means of escaping foreclosure that promise retention of the family home. Most commonly these scams involve deeding title to an “investor” who leases the property back to the home owner with “an option to purchase.” Sometimes these scams just involve vague promises of refinancing, then after obtaining the personal information from the consumer’s loan application, forging a deed. These criminal practices, behind a veneer of “professional assistance,” are epidemic throughout the county.

Several states have passed legislation aimed at curbing these crimes and the Washington State Attorney General this week proposed that similar legislation be passed in Washington. The proposed legislation includes notice requirements and a five day right of rescission but most significantly requires that the homeowner receive 82% of the equity in the event that the property is sold to a third party.

This ought to serve to curb the problem, but it would be very useful if there were enhanced prosecution of these criminals as they are largely under the radar of state and local prosecutors.