Facts: Petitioner Ronald Teter filed a medical malpractice action against his former physician, respondent Andrew Deck, in the Superior Court for King County. Prior to trial, Teter’s expert witness withdrew due to a medical condition that made him unavailable for the scheduled trial date. When his replacement also withdrew a month before trial after he discovered a professional conflict of interest, Teter notified Deck of his replacement by Dr. Thomas Fairchild and offered several dates for Dr. Fairchild to be deposed. Instead, Deck moved to strike Dr. Fairchild as a witness and the trial court granted the motion. After the case was reassigned to a new judge, the trial proceeded and ended in a verdict for the defense. However, the trial court subsequently granted Teter’s motion for a new trial on grounds that the original judge’s order striking Dr. Fairchild as a witness was an error of law and that the defense counsel’s misconduct prevented a fair trial. Upon appeal, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the verdict. Teter appealed this decision to the Supreme Court of Washington.
Question(s): Did the trial court err in granting a new trial?
Conclusion: Justice Wiggins’ opinion for a unanimous Court reversed the Washington Court of Appeals, concluding that the trial court did not err in granting a new trial. In particular, the Court held that the striking of Dr. Fairchild as a witness was an error of law insofar as the order striking Dr. Fairchild contained no finding of fact that Teter’s discovery violation was willful or that less severe sanctions had been considered. The Court also held that the record supported the trial court’s conclusion that the defense counsel committed misconduct preventing a fair trial by attempting to put exhibits before the jury that had not been admitted into evidence and attempting to elicit testimony regarding subjects that had been ruled inadmissible or irrelevant.
Petitioner: Ronald Teter
(Counsel: Peter McNaughton Vial, Barbara Himes Schuknecht, Matthew N. Menzer, and Avi Joshua Lipman)
Respondent: Andrew Deck
(Counsel: Mary H. Spillane, Nancy C. Elliott, Mark Stephen Davidson, and David L. Martin)
Argument: Thursday, November 10, 2011 1:30pm
[Source: TVW, http://tvw.org]
Audio: Court of Appeals Division I
Audio: Washington Supreme Court
Decided: Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Prevailing Party: Ronald Teter (Petitioner)
Court: Madsen2 Court (2011)
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.