Facts: Petitioner Julie Anderson filed suit against her former employer, respondent Akzo Nobel Coatings, Inc., in the Superior Court for King County, claiming that her exposure to toxic solvents while mixing paint in the course of her employment was the cause of her son’s birth defects and that she was subsequently wrongfully discharged in violation of public policy after she filed a formal complaint reporting safety concerns to the Department of Labor and Industries. The superior court granted summary judgment for Akzo Nobel Coatings, ruling that Anderson’s scientific evidence linking her exposure to toxic solvents to her son’s birth defects does not meet the standard for the admission of novel scientific evidence announced in Frye v. United States and that the statutory remedy available under Washington Revised Code §49.17.160 preempts Anderson’s claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Anderson appealed this decision directly to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Is Anderson’s scientific evidence linking her exposure to toxic solvents to her son’s birth defects admissible under the Frye standard?
Is Anderson’s claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy preempted by §49.17.160?
Conclusion: Justice Chambers’ opinion for a unanimous Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the superior court’s decision, concluding that Anderson’s scientific evidence linking her exposure to toxic solvents to her son’s birth defects is admissible under the Frye standard insofar as the Frye standard does not require that a plaintiff’s theory of causation be widely accepted in the relevant scientific community, only that the science and methods underlying the scientific evidence presented by a plaintiff be widely accepted in the relevant scientific community. However, the Court also held that §49.17.160 preempts Anderson’s claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. Thus, the Court remanded the case for trial.
Docket No. 82264-6 (from King Case No. 07-2-10209-4 SEA)
Appellant: Julie Anderson
(Counsel: Lincoln Charles Beauregard and John Robert Connelly, Jr.)
Respondent: Akzo Nobel Coatings, Inc.
(Counsel: Kelly Patrick Corr, William Harrison Walsh, and Steven Walter Fogg)
Argument: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 9:00am
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, September 8th, 2011
Prevailing Party: Julie Anderson (Appellant)
Note: We post only slip opinion(s) as published at the time of the decision. Please consult Washington Reports printed volumes for the opinion(s) in their final form. Each opinion should appear next to the Justice who authored it.