Waples v. Yi, 169 Wn.2d 152 (2010) is over 2 years old, and we thought it no better time than to review that case for the blog readers. To our knowledge, the holding and effect of Waples is mostly unchanged since it was originally decided.
In Waples, what was at issue was a special statute that modifies the requirements to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. RCW 7.70.100(1) requires that in order for a plaintiff to file a suit against a health care provider for medical malpractice, in addition to any of the ordinary procedures relating to commencing a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff must also give the medical provider 90 days notice of intent to sue. With this requirement, the legislature intended to facilitate settlements in lieu of filing lawsuits.
A majority of the Washington Supreme Court in Waples basically made a 2 part holding. The first is that RCW 7.70.100 directly conflicts with a court rule that governs how to commence a lawsuit. In other words, the court characterized this as a direct conflict between a judicial rule and a rule enacted by the legislature (implicating separation of powers concerns). The second part of the holding was that (in order to avoid separation of powers concerns), a rule governing substantive law will be upheld if enacted by the legislature, while a rule governing procedure will have to yield to the judicial rule. The court held that this notice requirement was a procedural rule, and so RCW 7.70.100 was unconstitutional as violating the separation of powers.
So, the moral of the story (under a literal reading of Waples) might be that plaintiffs may not need to be quite as concerned about initiating a lawsuit as quickly as possible. In our experience, however, this is sometimes misguided. There are numerous procedural requirements that impose time restrictions on lawsuits. Many of these restrictions produce draconian results, and so even though Waples seems to create more time for a plaintiff to begin a suit after being injured, the best approach is to not wait too long before contacting an attorney.
(This post is intended to be educational and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions or believe that these issues affect you or your case, you should contact an attorney).