April 28, 2012
When the firm’s clients purchased their home on some small acreage in the Spokane Valley about five years ago, they had it in mind they would build a shop out-building where they could enjoy their avocation and service building for their acreage and home. During the permitting process, they discovered that an international, natural gas pipeline existed underneath the ground where they intended to build, and the pipeline company had a recorded easement for its use and maintenance. When they purchased the property, they received a title policy from their seller and title insurer; no easement for any natural gas pipeline was disclosed. When, on behalf of the firm’s clients, a claim was made under their policy of title insurance, the insurance company low-balled the diminution in value of the property and compelled the clients into a first-party claim for insurance bad faith and to recover their actual damages, pegged by an MAI appraiser at five times what the insurance company was offering. Two years later, following the service of summons and complaint upon them, and the prospect of paying five times actual damages, treble damages, and all attorney’s fees, the insurance company paid the clients nearly all the difference in diminution values and a Spokane County Superior Court judge entered a Stipulated Order of Dismissal. The firm handles all manner of title insurance claims resulting from encumbrances of record which are not disclosed to property owners, and for bad-faith settlement under the state’s insurance fair conduct act.
April 21, 2012
Boswell Law Firm, P.S. was, once again, recognized at the 17th Annual Dinner and Auction held on behalf of Inland Northwest’s premier conservation group, The Lands Counsel (TLC). The firm has been a sponsor and corporate member every year and is also a supporter of other charitable and benevolent organizations. We encourage our clients and business associates to contribute to the important work of preserving the Inland Northwest’s environment, forests, and rivers being done through TLC.
April 2, 2012.
Following trial before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt, the firm’s clients obtained a complete victory in protracted litigation (three years) involving commercial real property they had purchased over a decade earlier, only to discover that the seller had defrauded them. Judge Sypolt entered a judgment in the amount of $208,000.00, extinguished all indebtedness owed to the seller under a prior real estate contract for deed, awarded more than $125,000.00 in attorney’s fees, and quieted the client’s title to the property. The case began when a former Washington state real estate licensee and certified member of the National Association of Realtors sold them a commercial lot in downtown Cheney, Washington through a purported trust he represented. The seller inveigled his way into the sale, purporting to act as the escrow agent in the transaction, using representations of professional qualifications and experience, trustworthiness and competency, but failed to record the purchasers’ contract interest, saving himself many thousands of dollars in title fees, excise taxes and other costs. The clients took immediate possession of the property and commenced business operations therefrom for nearly eight years, faithfully paying the seller every month. Eventually, the firm’s clients leased the premises and its business operations to third parties. Regular installment payments continued. In the intervening years, the seller illegally forged a document by altering the signature page from the old real estate contract he had signed earlier to make it appear as a lease and presented it to a local bank in support of a large personal loan. He then secretly conveyed the title from the purported trust to himself and fraudulently procured a $138,000 loan using the client’s property as collateral. Then, to cover his tracks, he reconveyed the property back into his phony trust. Also in the meantime, other judgment liens attached to the property. After more than ten years of faithfully paying on the original real estate contract, the clients discovered the seller’s skullduggery when they were unable to refinance. In rendering his decision, Judge Sypolt characterized defendant’s activities as “breathtakingly dishonest” and, when the seller eventually took the witness stand, the judge read him his Miranda rights in contemplation of later criminal prosecution. The bank’s first lien encumbrance was released by compromise and all judgment lienholders agreed to release as well. The firm handles all manner of disputes relating to title, liens, purchases and sales, contract breaches and fraud claims.
March 7, 2012
When the father of the firm’s client passed away in December 2010, the daughter and personal representative of his estate contacted the firm regarding its administration. Upon investigation, the decedent had, through counsel in the Davenport, Washington area, arranged for two life estates in real property assets he’d held and another life estate in a brokerage account. Despite what should have been a straight-forward administration, some of the decedent’s property was held concurrently with other family members or relatives and a cloud existed on title going back 40 years, preventing conveyance for decedent’s undivided share until the cloud could be removed. Finally, the lawyers involved in the conveyances of the interests 40 years earlier were encouraged to work out and pay for the cumbersome task of removing the cloud to the satisfaction of the title insurance company. Eventually, the decedent’s assets were disbursed according to his last will and a Declaration of Completion of Probate filed, including the conveyance of the life estate to the surviving spouse. The firm handles all manner of estate and planning matters, and also represents its clients in will contests.
March 1, 2012
The firm extends its deepest sympathies and condolences to the friends and family of client Bert Hook, who passed away recently in Arizona. Bert kept a summer property in Davenport, Washington where he was harangued annually by Lincoln County’s Noxious Weed Control Board. After 20 years of it, he asked the firm to represent him in a challenge to the Weed Board’s lawful constitution. Following extensive factual and legal research into the issue, the firm concluded, despite the enormous odds against prevailing, that Bert’s claim would easily clear the frivolous lawsuit bar. It appeared that Lincoln County’s Noxious Weed Control Board was operating outside of any oversight or control by Lincoln County’s elected officials, its county commissioners. The problem had been going on since the early 1980’s and included real property tax assessments and levies arbitrarily set by the Weed Board members – a sort of taxation without representation. Before pulling the trigger on any legal action, the firm advised Bert that his prospects of success were low and the expenses of bringing it would be high. Much to the honor of his name and memory, Bert decided he wanted to proceed; he wanted his day in court. Following the expected motions for summary dismissal in Adams County Superior Court, where Bert’s action came to rest, and a subsequent appeal to the Division III Court of Appeals, without success, Bert, in failing health, decided not to proceed any further. The firm and its staff remember Bert fondly and admire his tenacity. He will be missed.
August 9, 2011
When it is said that anything can happen in a courtroom and that there are no guarantees in litigation, they mean exactly that. A tough loss this past year. The firm’s client, sued twice by an adjoining landowner, but with a perfect defense, received an adverse decision from an (unnamed) Spokane County Superior Court judge and, despite recommendation, declined to appeal. The client purchased residential real property in the Spokane Valley about 2006 and moved from out of state, taking up residency. A four-foot tall chain-link fence, 300 feet long, enclosed the entire back yard. The adjoining landowners suspected it was not on the true common boundary between the two parcels and sued to have it moved. After languishing for many, many months, without doing anything, the neighbors finally saw their trial date looming. They rushed to prosecute, demanding a jury. But more delays, due to trial court congestion and scheduling problems, among other things, stalled the action again. Finally, years after suing, the case was heard in a four-day trial. Washington state law prohibits a party from seeking to recover possession of real property where it has been openly and continuously used and occupied by another for more than ten years. A fence is prima facie evidence of that use and occupation. The firm’s investigation of the chain-link fence revealed that it had existed for more than ten years and the area enclosed by it used and occupied by the client and her predecessors the entire time. In other words, the neighbor’s action was prohibited by the statute of limitations. One of the client’s witnesses had a photograph of the chain-link fence taken during a family gathering. It was date-stamped more than ten years before the filing of plaintiff’s action. For unknown reasons, the trial court disparaged the incontrovertible photographic evidence, ignored the statute and issued an order quieting title to the disputed strip in favor of the neighbors. The client declined to appeal despite the firm’s strong recommendation. The lesson is, anything can happen in a courtroom, and despite the existence of black-letter law and unimpeachable facts, nobody gets a guarantee of success. Another lesson: For both litigants, lawyers and others there is always room for improved probity in our judicial system.
August 8, 2011
When the principals of Browne’s Mountain Development Company purchased the old Sullivan Farm near Glenrose Road in 1958, they envisioned an upscale residential community with some of the finest view lots in Spokane County. Having personal ambitions to build and reside in the Browne’s Mountain community — and their pick of the crop of all view lots — they carved out a large parcel for themselves on the leeward side of the mountain, up on a rim looking across downtown Spokane, all the way up the Chewelah valley, at Mt. Spokane on the east, and Turnbull Wildlife Refuge on the west. This was (and likely is today) the finest residential building lot in the entire Browne’s Mountain area. Following at least four plats of the area, and the passage of five decades, the principals never got around to building their dream homes and unfortunately, forgot to provide legal access to the lot, despite excavating a roadway into it. Years ago the principals passed away, and when one of the surviving spouses engaged the firm to acquire access, the neighboring landowner refused, despite the existence of the roadway over her property. Left with little choice, the firm’s client filed an action in Spokane County Superior Court to obtain legal access to her landlocked parcel and, just before the two-day trial was set to commence, the defendant neighboring landowner acknowledged the futility of contesting further and agreed to execute the necessary conveyance documents, granting a 60-foot wide easement for ingress, egress, and utilities into the client’s parcel and to pay the premium on the title policy insuring it. The settlement successfully unlocked the value of what is, perhaps, the best residential view lot on Browne’s Mountain, which had laid undeveloped and forgotten for more than 50 years. The firm handles all manner of easement and access disputes, transactions and other title claims and controversies.
July 19, 2011
When signature-gatherers exercising First Amendment rights of free speech (and a state constitutional right to petition for initiative) walked past a “No Solicitation” sign, entered a private, gated, residential community and began door-to-door solicitations for political signatures, the president of the homeowner’s association, represented by the firm, confronted them. They left, but came back later saying they’d contacted the local police chief, who indicated the Association had no right to prevent their entry. In responding to the Association’s inquiry, the firm advised the president that the Washington Supreme Court recognizes only a limited right for signature-gatherers to enter private property and that the police chief who rendered an informal opinion otherwise was in error. The free speech right generally extends only to property such as large regional shopping centers because they function as the “equivalent” of a downtown area or other “public forum”. Since private, gated, residential communities cannot be characterized as public forums, and since the public was expressly disinvited from soliciting inside the gates of the community, the firm advised the homeowner’s association to deny entry in the future and to have law enforcement contact it in the event it happens again. The firm represents a number of area homeowner’s associations and is occasionally asked to answer arcane questions such as this one, to amend covenants, conditions, and restrictions and to take enforcement actions under them.
June 17, 2011
When the firm’s clients, Pete and Linda, returned from a Christmas shopping trip in Sandpoint, Idaho to their home on twenty six wooded acres in the Little Spokane River valley in December 2006, they made a terrible discovery. The neighboring landowner (and the timber company he’d hired) had crossed over the property boundary, cut down and removed twenty five trees in their favorite forest grove and left it littered with slash, debris, deep ruts and destruction. When confronted about it, Pete and Linda were told by the trespassers they’d be reimbursed for stumpage value, a few hundred dollars. Pete and Linda wanted their property restored, i.e. put back in the condition that it was in. That measure of damages, according to experts, topped $90,000 and, by state law, the amount could be tripled. When the trespassers refused to pay, Pete and Linda filed suit in Pend Oreille County. Today, after more than four years, more than four insurance defense attorneys appearing, and only a week before the scheduled jury trial in the case, defendants agreed to settle and pay. The confidential six-digit settlement amount ended the case. The firm wishes to express its sincere appreciation for the tenacious and principled way in which Pete and Linda saw the case through and reminds all landowners in Washington that unlawfully cutting down another’s trees and timber subjects trespassers to hefty claims for damages and penalties. Boswell Law Firm, P.S. emphasizes a practice in the area of timber trespass.
April 23, 2011
Boswell Law Firm, P.S. was, once again, recognized at the 16th Annual dinner and auction held on behalf of the Inland Northwest’s premier conservation group, The Lands Council (TLC). The firm has been a sponsor and corporate member every year and is also a supporter of other local charitable and benevolent organizations. We encourage our clients and business associates to contribute to the important work of preserving the Inland Northwest environment, forests, rivers and wildlife through TLC.
April 10, 2011
Spokane, WA – Spokane County Superior Court Judge Ellen K. Clark returned her decision for an award for attorney’s fees and costs for the firm’s client in an action first reported here on September 25, 2009. While unfortunate that the case dragged out for four years, during which time Judge Clark’s husband passed away, in the end she awarded the client more than 20 times in fees and costs what the plaintiff sought in damages initially — and properly so. During the long course of the litigation the Division III Court of Appeals rendered a published opinion on a point of law which the firm argued was an anomaly in the jurisprudence of Washington State, a hole in its fabric, so to speak, through which the court had inadvertently fallen at the insistence of plaintiff’s counsel upon case authority from 1893. As Division III reversed the court and the authority, that hole has now been stitched up which is expected to benefit all civil litigants in Washington State in the future. Please see the client’s testimonial and/or read the Division III’s published decision at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-court-of-appeals/1199198.html. Please also check out the following two blog posts supporting the significance of the Div. III Court of Appeals ruling in this case: The Amateur Law Professor and Washington State Litigation and Appeals.
April 10, 2011
Jefferson Davis County, MS – In the years following the Great Depression, Mississippi attorney R.W. Thompson, Jr. provided legal services to the former owners of a local sawmill in exchange, if he was successful, for a contract giving him a one third-interest in the land under dispute. R.W. Thompson, Jr. was reputed to be one of Mississippi’s finest attorneys and never sought collection for those services. Now, some 70 years later, the firm’s client, a local Spokane resident and descendant of Attorney Thompson, received service of process indicating that she was a potential heir under Thompson’s contract and, low and behold, oil and natural gas had been discovered underneath the properties. Of all the numerous heirs and descendants named in the suit, only the firm’s client successfully negotiated a compromise and settlement of plaintiffs’ claim of interest, and the Chancery Court of Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi entered appropriate orders last week.
January 7, 2011
Newport, WA – A long-running timber trespass action between adjoining property owners on Coyote Trail Road ended today in the plaintiffs’ favor, who was represented by the firm. The case begin Thanksgiving 2007 when the defendant and his friends fired up an 80,000 pound, D-7 Caterpillar bwith a 12-foot long blade and proceeded to bulldoze over and clear the clients’ property for over a quarter of a mile, running over and destroying their growing trees and ruining the aesthetic pleasure the clients’ took from walking through their lands and growing forest. The central issue in the case, recognized by the trial judge, became the measure of damages. The defendant asserted plaintiffs’ recovery was limited to the so-called “stumpage” value of the trees destroyed by the trespass, about $500, because, through two expert witnesses, they could calculate that stumpage based on a “discounted present value of a future harvest” – - i.e., the value of the trees today if they were allowed to grow for 66 more years and reach maturity! Plaintiffs asserted they were entitled to the restoration measure of damages because all the trees were unmerchantable, could be easily replaced and the property restored to its prior condition from trees available at local nurseries at a cost of about $96,000, and that plaintiffs were entitled to treble that amount as a punitive sanction. Although the case dragged on for more than three and a half years, the defendant wisely settled for an undisclosed amount before the jury could decide plaintiffs’ actual damages and statutory trebling.
December 14, 2010
Pomeroy, WA – Garfield County Superior Court Judge William Acey, holding court in temporary facilities inside a U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station, heard oral arguments in a protracted title case in which the firm’s client challenged a neighboring landowner’s contention that he had an appurtenant easement over twenty feet of the client’s property. The neighboring landowner, represented by his subrogated title insurer, argued this alleged easement existed by virtue of several prior conveyances of his property based on language of a “parking reservation” included in the legal description of the client’s deed inserted (unilaterally) by the title agent who searched the record in 2002. At the hearing, Judge Acey rejected the title company’s motion to strike several sworn statements submitted in support of the client’s claim that the alleged easement was nothing more than a permissive license in its origin, denied the title company’s motion for summary judgment as a matter of law and granted the client’s motion for declaratory judgment, holding the neighboring landowner could not have acquired any greater interest in the client’s property through the prior conveyances than what the original seller in the chain of title had to convey and also refused to construe the client’s deed in a manner that would forfeit a portion of his title to the property. Having determined the title question, the client’s case now moves onto the client’s claims for civil damages, attorney’s fees and litigation-related costs based in part on the title agent’s unauthorized practice of law and the insurer’s bad faith settlement conduct, which compelled the firm’s client into the litigation and denied them their own insured claim.
September 10, 2010
Seattle, WA – Not long after the 36 month/36,000 mile warranty expired on his new six cylinder two-door Honda Accord, its original equipment ignition coil and spark plug failed, melting into the crank case, destroying the engine. When American Honda Motor Company Inc. would not repair it, despite express representations that its vehicles’ spark plugs need not be changed for 105,000 miles, the aggrieved owner contacted the firm. Acting in an advisory capacity only, but conducting factual and legal research and preparing documents, the owner served Honda his Summons and Complaint in King County, Washington. Honda’s Answer set out no less than 25 affirmative defenses. Following a careful but aggressively worded demand letter, Honda agreed today to pay the entire cost for repair of the owner’s vehicle. The Summons and Complaint prepared by the firm on behalf of the owner advanced theories of recovery based not on warranty but on the state’s Consumer Protection Act and negligent misrepresentation. Diligent research nationwide resulted in a number of other Honda Accord owners whose ignition coil had also disintegrated into the vehicle’s engine, destroying it and making it essentially worthless but lending support to the “public interest” element of the owner’s Consumer Protection Act claim. This favorable outcome ends the controversy, puts the vehicle back on the road and fully restores its utility and value for the client.
August 6, 2010
Spokane, WA – At a two-hour presentment hearing in the Spokane County Superior Court, Judge Salvatore “Sam” Cozza entered Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment in favor of the firm’s clients, including an award of attorney’s fees and litigation-related costs in the full amount sought by plaintiff in the case, $48,264. The total amount of the judgment exceeds $78,000 and was entered today. Barring appeal by the defaulting defendants, which will require posting bond in the full amount of the judgment plus anticipated interest and attorney’s fees over the period of appeal, the case is concluded. The Judgment Summary was marked by Judge Cozza for the court clerk’s data entry as “Resolved and Completed”. The firm’s clients recovered possession of the premises, their damages and past due rents, accrued interest, late fees, and 100% of their attorney’s fees.
July 20, 2010
Spokane, WA – After successfully evicting a defaulting commercial tenant on April 12 (see below), Superior Court Judge Salvatore Cozza ruled today, following one and a half days of trial, that the firm’s clients were entitled to an award of $30,000, including sums for past due rent, late fees, accrued interest and damages. Further, Judge Cozza reserves an award of clients’ attorney’s fees and litigation-related costs until presentment, now scheduled for next week. Defendants in the case compelled the firm’s clients to defend four separate pre-trial motions and hearings, refused all settlement overtures and then (remorselessly) put the firm’s clients to trial. They lost all four motions – - and the trial. Stay tuned for updates as to Judge Cozza’s award (and the clients’ recovery) of attorney’s fees and costs.
April 16, 2010
Newport, WA – Following a five-day jury trial in Newport, Washington in Pend Oreille County, Superior Court Judge Allen Nielson accepted for the record the parties’ settlement and dismissal of a family feud over the transfer of real property between some of its members. The firm represented the defendants in the case, who settled on the same terms offered years earlier. After the jury was excused, Attorney Dave Boswell visited with them all and learned nine of the twelve had come into deliberations in the case in favor of the firm’s clients; three were undecided. The plaintiff’s compromise and settlement, just minutes before closing argument, was well-advised!
April 12, 2010
Spokane, WA – In an unlawful detainer case, the firm’s client, owner of a commercial property in Cheney, WA, recovered possession from a defaulting tenant when Spokane County Superior Court Judge Debra Plese issued orders for a Writ of Restitution, which was delivered to the Sheriff’s Office for service before the defendants packed up and vacated. At the same time, Judge Plese denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds, denied another defense motion to pay the monthly rent into the court registry, and also denied a motion to intervene in a separate case brought by the client (against a different party) concerning title to the property. Trial on the issue of damages is currently set for July 19, 2010. Damages and attorney’s fees are expected to reach the six-digit mark. Any inquiries regarding purchase or rental of the subject property may be directed to the firm through the contact information provided herein.
April 10, 2010
Boswell Law Firm P.S. was recognized at the 15th Annual Dinner and Auction held on behalf of the Inland Northwest’s premier conservation group, The Lands Council (“TLC”). The firm has been a sponsoring corporate member every year and is also a supporter of other local, charitable and benevolent organizations, including the Vanessa Behan Crisis Center, Special Olympics and others. We encourage our clients and business associates to contribute to the important work preserving the Inland Northwest’s environment, forest, and rivers being done by TLC.
November 19, 2009
Spokane, WA – Allstate Insurance Company tendered its at-fault insured driver’s policy limits and Geico Insurance and Safeco Insurance paid all medical expenses incurred by the firm’s client following a high speed motor vehicle accident (“HSMVA”) on Interstate 5 in Seattle in which the client was injured as a passenger. Boswell Law Firm handles auto accidents and other personal injury claims. See Practice Areas for more detail.
November 13, 2009
Spokane, WA – Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen entered orders ending a nasty easement dispute on Mt. Spokane in rural Spokane County, in which the firm represented the defendants in an action against plaintiff’s claims that an easement over the clients’ property should be extended and expanded for the convenience of his access to adjoining properties and that the client’s gate restricting public access be removed. The court’s order denied both and enjoined the plaintiff, and his successors-in-interest, from overburdening the roadway and provided for the permanent installation of gates across the roadways, among other things.
September 25, 2009
Spokane, WA – Division Three of the Court of Appeals filed its unanimous decision (for publication) in the firm’s case of Kalich v. Clark, reversing the Superior Court’s ruling on an issue of law and awarding the firm’s client, Mr. Clark, his costs and attorney’s fees in both the lower courts and the court of appeals. Read more below. The decision can be viewed at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-court-of-appeals/1199198.html
January 27, 2009
The Division Three Court of Appeals reverses a Pend Oreille County Superior Court Judge, The Hon. Allen J. Nielson, and quiets title to the firm’s clients in a dispute over second class shorelands at Loon Lake. See more below. The decision can be viewed at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-court-of-appeals/1466994.html
February 26, 2002
Following a four-day jury trial in Okanagan County Superior Court, a verdict in favor of the firm’s client for the wrongful cutting of twelve of his trees, and judgment trebling the damages (in an amount of $141,000.00), the firm successfully defended appeals before both the Division III Court of Appeals and, later, the Washington State Supreme Court. Including amounts recovered for the client’s attorney fees, the defendant eventually paid in excess of $210,000.00 for the removal of twelve large native pine and fir trees from his rural property, used mostly for hunting in the fall. The case is reported at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/wa-court-of-appeals/1329188.html