Wrigley v. State

Decision Date30 October 2018
Docket NumberNo. 49612-7-II,49612-7-II
Citation428 P.3d 1279
CourtWashington Court of Appeals
Parties Jessica WRIGLEY, individually, and as Personal Representative for the Estate of A.C.A., Deceased, and O.K.P., a minor child, and I.T.W., a minor child, by and through their biological mother, Jessica Wrigley, Appellants/Cross-Respondents, v. STATE of Washington; Department of Social & Health Services; Donald Watson & "Jane Doe" Watson, husband and wife, individually and the marital community thereof; Alessandro Larosa & "John Doe" Larosa, husband and wife, individually and the marital community thereof; Rachel Whitney & "John Doe" Whitney, husband and wife, individually and the marital community thereof; Jennifer Gorder & "John Doe" Gorder, husband and wife, individually and the marital community thereof; "John Doe" Social Worker & "Jane Doe" Social Worker, husband and wife individually and the marital community thereof, 1 through 5, Respondents/Cross Appellants.

Gary Alan Preble, Attorney at Law, 2120 State Ave. Ne, Olympia, WA, 98506-6500, for Appellants.

Allison Margaret Croft, Attorney General's Office, 800 Fifth Ave. Ste. 2000, Seattle, WA, 98104-3188, Allyson Zipp, Washington Attorney General's Office, 7141 Cleanwater Ln. Sw, Olympia, WA, 98504-0126, for Respondents/Cross-Appellants.


Bjorgen, P.J.¶ 1 A.A., a six year old boy, was killed by his father, Anthony Viles, approximately three months after being placed with Viles. A.A.’s mother, Jessica Wrigley, I.W., a minor child, and the Estate of A.A. (collectively the Wrigleys) appeal the trial court’s grant of partial summary judgment, which dismissed all of the Wrigleys’ negligence-based claims against the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)1 relating to the death of A.A. The Wrigleys also appeal the trial court’s denial of their motion for leave to amend their complaint.

¶ 2 The Wrigleys argue that DSHS owed A.A. a duty of care under (1) former RCW 26.44.050 (2012), (2) the shelter care order, and (3) the special relationship doctrine. The Wrigleys also argue the trial court abused its discretion when it denied their motion for leave to file an amended complaint because DSHS cannot show it would have been prejudiced by such an amendment.

¶ 3 On cross-appeal, DSHS argues that (1) the Wrigleys’ claims fail as a matter of law based on a lack of proximate cause and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it refused to strike opinions offered by the Wrigleys’ expert.

¶ 4 In the published portion of this opinion, we hold that DSHS owed the Wrigleys a duty of care under former RCW 26.44.050. Consequently, we reverse the order granting DSHS’s motion for partial summary judgment and dismissing the Wrigleys’ claim under former RCW 26.44.050. In the unpublished portion, we decline to address the issue of duty under the shelter care order and the special relationship doctrine under RAP 9.12, because it was not called to the attention of the trial court. We also hold that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the Wrigleys’ motion to amend their complaint to add a general negligence theory. Accordingly, we reverse the dismissal of any other negligence-based claims, because the trial court should have granted the Wrigleys leave to amend their complaint.

¶ 5 On the cross-appeal, we do not reach the issue of proximate cause because we hold that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied the Wrigleys’ motion to amend. Finally, we hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to strike the opinions offered by the Wrigleys’ expert.

¶ 6 We reverse and remand.


A. Substantive Facts

¶ 7 Jessica Wrigley2 and Viles met in December 2004, and Jessica became pregnant with A.A. in February 2005. After she became pregnant, Jessica claims Viles’ behavior toward her changed; for example, he became more controlling and verbally abusive. She asserts his behavior began to escalate and he began threatening and abusing her physically, even threatening to kill her several times. According to Jessica, Viles used methamphetamine, cocaine, ketamine, and heroin and abused alcohol throughout their brief relationship.

¶ 8 On August 26, 2005, Jessica sought a protection order, which the court granted on September 10. A.A., their son, was born on October 19. On November 7, Jessica sought renewal and modification of the protection order because Viles had been loitering outside of her home.

¶ 9 Viles’ violent behavior and abuse of drugs and alcohol predated his relationship with Jessica and continued after their relationship ended. From 1998-2001, Viles was held in juvenile detention at various times for assaultive behavior and suicidal threats. In February 2000, Viles was taken into mental protective custody after making suicidal threats. Viles’ mother, Rose Viles, informed law enforcement that Viles "ha[d] problems with his violent tendencies." Clerk’s Papers (CP) at 530. Viles was again taken into mental protective custody in July 2000 after he attempted suicide. In August 2000, Viles was incarcerated at the Psycho Social Rehab Center in Pocatello, Idaho, where he had to be physically restrained after assaulting an inmate. Viles "became combative and began throwing the chair around and yelling and screaming" when law enforcement confronted him. CP at 536. Then, in September 2000, Viles’ mother called law enforcement due to a domestic disturbance between Viles and her.

¶ 10 In 2001, Viles pled guilty to battery. In 2002, he pled guilty to minor in possession and was accused of rape. The alleged victim completed a computer voice stress analysis that concluded she was being truthful; Viles would not participate in the stress test due to advice from his counsel. In June 2002, law enforcement was called to a physical altercation between Viles and his girlfriend, Jami Carranza. In October 2002, Viles’ grandfather, Roy Viles,3 reported a domestic disturbance between him and Viles.

¶ 11 In September 2003, law enforcement was called because of a domestic disturbance between Viles and Carranza. During the investigation, Viles admitted to pushing Carranza. After a physical altercation with law enforcement, Viles pled guilty to disturbing the peace. In May 2004, Carranza reported to law enforcement that Viles had arrived at her home intoxicated, gotten into an argument, and drove away drunk.

¶ 12 In October 2005, Roy reported another domestic disturbance between Viles and him. Roy reported that Viles had physically threatened him and was using drugs. In January 2006, Viles was stabbed with a screwdriver during a fight.

¶ 13 In January 2007, Viles pled guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor when he provided alcohol to and harbored a 15 year old runaway female. Viles admitted to law enforcement he had marijuana in his home.

¶ 14 In January 2009, Ramon Garcia, Carranza’s fiance, reported Viles breaking into a shed in his back yard. Viles was charged with unlawful entry.

¶ 15 In December 2011, William Viles4 and Ashley Eskelson called law enforcement to report Viles had come to their home and threatened to "break [William’s] neck."5 CP at 586-88. This incident occurred one month before DSHS placed A.A. with Viles, described below.

¶ 16 Jessica married Jared Wrigley on November 30, 2007. In 2010, the Wrigleys, including A.A., moved from Idaho to Washington.

¶ 17 A.A.’s first contact with DSHS occurred at age five in the summer of 2011, when his Catholic Community Services individual mentor made four reports to DSHS concerning the possible abuse and neglect of A.A. by the Wrigleys. Child Protective Services (CPS) assigned the case to Kim Karu for investigation. After Karu’s investigation, CPS transferred their case to Family Voluntary Services (FVS) at the end of August 2011.

¶ 18 On September 29, FVS employee, Rachel Whitney, made a routine health and safety visit, traveling to Jessica’s home after she discovered A.A. did not attend school. After arriving at the their home, she observed A.A. shaking, his eyes tearing

, his lips and mouth area appeared red, and she observed bruising on his jaw and cheek that had not been there during her visit a week earlier. Jessica explained that she had put hot pepper sauce in A.A.’s mouth, which caused the observable redness, because he called her a name. Whitney asked A.A. what happened and he said that when his mother "opened his mouth with her fingers to put in the hot sauce he screamed because it hurt so bad." CP at 139. A.A. also said that his father spanked him with his hand or belt for wetting the bed.

¶ 19 Whitney noted that Jessica appeared aggravated. Jessica stated to Whitney that she wanted to put A.A. up for adoption. Whitney recommended putting A.A. into a voluntary out-of-home placement for two weeks and Jessica agreed.

¶ 20 CPS assigned the case to Jennifer Gorder, and Gorder interviewed A.A. the next day at his school. A.A. stated that he was spanked by his father with a belt for wetting his pants. Gorder noted and photographed bruises on A.A.’s spine, side, face, and above his buttocks. Gorder noted that the bruises on A.A.’s back and forearm were linear, which indicated they may have been made with a belt.

¶ 21 At an October 4 family team decision meeting, Jessica informed CPS that she had a restraining order against Viles because of threats he made against her. Jessica told the social workers that Viles had threatened to cut her head off, had tried to run over her, had dragged her upstairs by her hair, and had a reputation for violence in Pocatello.

¶ 22 On October 5, DSHS filed a dependency petition regarding A.A., based on Gorder’s investigation. The dependency petition informed the court of the restraining order between Jessica and Viles. Both A.A. and his younger brother, I.W., were removed from Jessica’s home.

¶ 23 Gorder, meanwhile, located Viles, who showed interest in having custody of A.A.6 Viles communicated the same desire to Whitney. Gorder ran a "Purpose Code C" background...

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