Christensen v. Grant County Hosp. Dist., 73772-0.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Writing for the CourtMADSEN, J.
Citation96 P.3d 957,152 Wash.2d 299
PartiesKimball D. CHRISTENSEN, a single man, Respondent, v. GRANT COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT NO. 1 d/b/a Samaritan Hospital, a nonprofit municipal corporation, Petitioner.
Docket NumberNo. 73772-0.,73772-0.
Decision Date26 August 2004

96 P.3d 957
152 Wash.2d 299

Kimball D. CHRISTENSEN, a single man, Respondent,
GRANT COUNTY HOSPITAL DISTRICT NO. 1 d/b/a Samaritan Hospital, a nonprofit municipal corporation, Petitioner

No. 73772-0.

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc.

Argued February 12, 2004.

Decided August 26, 2004.

As Amended August 31, 2004.

96 P.3d 959
Susan Wilder Troppman, Etter McMahon Lamberson & Clary PC, Spokane, for Petitioner

Michael A. Arch, Foreman Arch Dodge, Volyn & Zimmerman, Wenatchee, Shelley Movae Buckholtz, Mikkelborg, Broz, Wells & Fryer, Seattle, for Respondent.

Michael Barr King, Lane Powell Spears Lubersky LLP, Stewart Andrew Estes, Keating Bucklin & McCormack, Ralph Crockett Pond, Lane Powell Spears Lubersky LLP, Seattle, for Amicus Curiae Washington Defense Trial Lawyers.

Kathleen Phair Barnard and Jeffrey L. Needle, Seattle, for Amicus Curiae Washington Employment Lawyers Association.


Petitioner Grant County Hospital District No. 1, doing business as Samaritan Hospital (Samaritan), challenges a Court of Appeals decision reversing a grant of summary judgment in Samaritan's favor. The court held that if a public employee claiming retaliatory discharge for union activities fails to obtain relief in administrative proceedings on an unfair labor practices claim, collateral estoppel will not preclude relitigation of the reason for discharge in a later court action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. The court remanded to allow respondent Kimball D. Christensen's tort claim to go forward. We reverse.


Samaritan hired Christensen as a paramedic in January 1996. Christensen became actively involved in efforts to unionize Samaritan's emergency medical service employees. In June 1997, the Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) certified the International Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics (the union) as the exclusive bargaining representative of Samaritan's paramedic employees. At several points coinciding with the labor negotiations, Christensen received unfavorable supervisor evaluations and discipline.

On October 14, 1997, the union filed an unfair labor practices complaint with PERC, alleging that Samaritan discriminated against Christensen and two other employees for their union activities in violation of the Public Employees' Collective Bargaining Act, chapter 41.56 RCW. Before that complaint was resolved, Samaritan terminated Christensen's employment. On January 28, 1998, the union amended its complaint to allege that Samaritan discharged Christensen because of his participation in protected union activities. On Christensen's behalf the union sought his reinstatement, compensatory damages, including back pay, benefits and interest, and costs and attorney fees.

On March 18 and 19, 1998, PERC held a hearing. Christensen was represented by the union's lawyer. During the proceedings counsel made an opening statement, called eight witnesses to testify about the claim involving Christensen and submitted the declarations of two others, cross-examined Samaritan's witnesses (including the hospital administrator, personnel director, and ambulance director), offered exhibits, and made evidentiary objections. A little over eight pages of the union's posthearing brief evaluated the evidence relating to Christensen's discharge.

On April 30, 1998, the hearing examiner issued his findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order dismissing the union's complaint. The hearing examiner concluded that the union failed to sustain its burden to establish a prima facie case that Samaritan's action in discharging Christensen was substantially motivated by his exercise of rights protected

96 P.3d 960
by chapter 41.56 RCW and also found that Samaritan articulated lawful reasons for the discharge, i.e., sexual harassment, "so that no violation of RCW 41.56.140(1)[1] is established in regard to Christensen." Conclusion of law 2, Clerk's Papers (CP) at 112

On May 19, 1999, the union filed an appeal with PERC, and on December 14, 1999, PERC affirmed the examiner's findings, conclusions, and order and adopted them as the PERC decision. Neither party appealed the decision to superior court.

In November 2000, Christensen filed suit in Grant County Superior Court, alleging that Samaritan discharged him in retaliation for his union activities in violation of public policy stated in RCW On October 25, 2001, Samaritan moved for summary judgment, arguing that collateral estoppel barred relitigation of the issue whether Christensen was discharged in retaliation for his union activity. On April 1, 2001, the court granted the motion.

Christensen appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that Smith v. Bates Technical College, 139 Wash.2d 793, 991 P.2d 1135 (2000) "permits a public employee whose union fails to achieve a remedy from PERC to file a separate superior court tort claim for wrongful termination in violation of public policy." Christensen v. Grant County Hosp. Dist. No. 1, 114 Wash.App. 579, 581-82, 60 P.3d 99 (2002), review granted, 150 Wash.2d 1002, 77 P.3d 650 (2003).


Summary judgment is appropriate where there are no disputed material facts, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. CR 56(c); McGowan v. State, 148 Wash.2d 278, 289, 60 P.3d 67 (2002). The appellate court engages in the same inquiry as the trial court, with questions of law reviewed de novo and the facts and all reasonable inferences from the facts viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Williamson, Inc. v. Calibre Homes, Inc., 147 Wash.2d 394, 398, 54 P.3d 1186 (2002). Whether collateral estoppel applies to bar relitigation of an issue is reviewed de novo. State v. Vasquez, 109 Wash.App. 310, 314, 34 P.3d 1255 (2001), aff'd, 148 Wash.2d 303, 59 P.3d 648 (2002); State v. Bryant, 100 Wash.App. 232, 236-37, 237 n. 9, 996 P.2d 646 (2000), rev' on other grounds, 146 Wash.2d 90, 42 P.3d 1278 (2002); see Purdy v. Zeldes, 337 F.3d 253, 258 (2d Cir.2003) (district court's grant of summary judgment on the basis of collateral estoppel is reviewed de novo); Fireman's Fund Ins. Co. v. Stites, 258 F.3d 1016, 1020 (9th Cir.2001) (under summary judgment standard of review availability of collateral estoppel is an issue of law reviewed de novo).

Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, bars relitigation of an issue in a subsequent proceeding involving the same parties. 14A Karl B. Tegland, WASHINGTON PRACTICE,

96 P.3d 961
Civil Procedure § 35.32, at 475 (1st ed.2003) (hereafter Tegland, Civil Procedure). It is distinguished from claim preclusion "`in that, instead of preventing a second assertion of the same claim or cause of action, it prevents a second litigation of issues between the parties, even though a different claim or cause of action is asserted.'" Rains v. State, 100 Wash.2d 660, 665, 674 P.2d 165 (1983) (emphasis added) (quoting Seattle-First Nat'l Bank v. Kawachi, 91 Wash.2d 223, 225-26, 588 P.2d 725 (1978)); Kyreacos v. Smith, 89 Wash.2d 425, 427, 572 P.2d 723 (1977); see Shoemaker v. City of Bremerton, 109 Wash.2d 504, 507, 745 P.2d 858 (1987); Philip A. Trautman, Claim and Issue Preclusion in Civil Litigation in Washington, 60 WASH. L.REV. 805, 805, 813-14, 829 (1985) (hereafter Trautman, Claim and Issue Preclusion); Tegland, Civil Procedure § 35.32, at 475. Claim preclusion, also called res judicata,3 "is intended to prevent relitigation of an entire cause of action and collateral estoppel is intended to prevent retrial of one or more of the crucial issues or determinative facts determined in previous litigation." Luisi Truck Lines, Inc. v. Wash. Utils. & Transp. Comm'n, 72 Wash.2d 887, 894, 435 P.2d 654 (1967)

The collateral estoppel doctrine promotes judicial economy and serves to prevent inconvenience or harassment of parties. Reninger v. Dep't of Corr., 134 Wash.2d 437, 449, 951 P.2d 782 (1998). Also implicated are principles of repose and concerns about the resources entailed in repetitive litigation. Tegland, Civil Procedure § 35.21, at 446. Collateral estoppel provides for finality in adjudications. Trautman, Claim and Issue Preclusion, 60 WASH. L.REV. at 806.

Collateral estoppel may be applied to preclude only those issues that have actually been litigated and necessarily and finally determined in the earlier proceeding. Shoemaker, 109 Wash.2d at 507, 745 P.2d 858. Further, the party against whom the doctrine is asserted must have had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the earlier proceeding. Nielson v. Spanaway Gen. Med. Clinic, Inc., 135 Wash.2d 255, 264-65, 956 P.2d 312 (1998). For collateral estoppel to apply, the party seeking application of the doctrine must establish that (1) the issue decided in the earlier proceeding was identical to the issue presented in the later proceeding, (2) the earlier proceeding ended in a judgment on the merits, (3) the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party to, or in privity with a party to, the earlier proceeding, and (4) application of collateral estoppel does not work an injustice on the party against whom it is applied. Reninger, 134 Wash.2d at 449, 951 P.2d 782; State v. Williams, 132 Wash.2d 248, 254, 937 P.2d 1052 (1997); Claim and Issue Preclusion, 60 WASH. L.REV. at 831.

Both state and federal courts have applied collateral estoppel where an issue was adjudicated by an administrative agency in the earlier proceeding. E.g., Univ. of Tenn. v. Elliott, 478 U.S. 788, 106 S.Ct. 3220, 92 L.Ed.2d 635 (1986); Miller v. County of Santa Cruz, 39 F.3d 1030 (9th Cir.1994); Reninger, 134 Wash.2d 437, 951 P.2d 782; Shoemaker, 109 Wash.2d 504, 745 P.2d 858; Luisi Truck Lines, 72 Wash.2d 887, 435 P.2d 654; see Claim and Issue Preclusion, 60 WASH. L.REV. at 830. The United States Supreme Court has applied issue preclusion to enforce repose where an administrative agency has acted in a judicial capacity and resolved...

To continue reading

Request your trial
236 cases
  • Reeves v. Mason Cnty., 38548-5-III
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 17 Mayo 2022
    ...precludes relitigation of issues and res judicata stems relitigation of claims. Christensen v. Grant County Hospital District No. 1 , 152 Wash.2d 299, 306, 96 P.3d 957 (2004) ; Loveridge v. Fred Meyer, Inc. , 125 Wash.2d 759, 763, 887 P.2d 898 (1995). ¶ 28 Mason County seeks to benefit from......
  • Phillips 66 Co. v. Sacks, CASE NO. C19-0174JLR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Washington)
    • 10 Septiembre 2019
    ...use the terms "issue preclusion" and "collateral estoppel" interchangeably. See, e.g. , Christensen v. Grant Cty. Hosp. Dist. No. 1 , 152 Wash.2d 299, 96 P.3d 957, 960 (2004). For purposes of this order, however, the court follows the Taylor Court's guidance and uses the term "issue preclus......
  • Yakima County v. Yakima County Law Enforcement Officers Guild, 28111-6-III.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • 5 Agosto 2010
    ...litigation of an issue in a 237 P.3d 331subsequent proceeding involving the same parties. Christensen v. Grant County Hosp. Dist. No. 1, 152 Wash.2d 299, 306, 96 P.3d 957 (2004). Collateral estoppel is not res judicata “ ‘in that, instead of preventing a second assertion of the same claim o......
  • Afoa v. Port of Seattle, 94525-0
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • 19 Julio 2018
    ...prior action, and (4) the application of collateral estoppel would not work an injustice. Christensen v. Grant County Hosp. Dist. No. 1, 152 Wash.2d 299, 326, 96 P.3d 957 (2004) (quoting Clark v. Baines, 150 Wash.2d 905, 913, 84 P.3d 245 (2004) ). Only two aspects of res judicata and collat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT