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Civil Rights and Public Entity Law
 claims do not allow a prevailing plaintiff to recover attorney’s fees or punitive damages, the municipality is vicariously liable for employees’ actions within the course and scope of employment, and there is no qualified immunity. Negligence claims also typically involve significant factual disputes, based on 20/20 hindsight, which makes it difficult to obtain summary judgment dismissal.
What does this mean for Washington defense attorneys? More municipal liability lawsuits include either both federal and state law claims or only state law claims. It is more difficult to get cases dismissed at summary judgment, and the cases usually involve a wide range of factual inquiries and criticism of police decisions and tactics that lead up to a significant event or use of force. And while we may be able to reduce exposure to attorney’s fees and punitive damages, inflated jury awards pose serious risk, especially depending upon the venue. This is the bottom line: it is more important than ever that we get involved in potential lawsuits early, stay creative with resolution strategies, and focus on story-telling, communication, and powerful visual exhibits to effectively educate the judge and, if necessary, the jury who will ultimately decide the case.
Ann Trivett is a Shareholder with Keating, Bucklin & McCormack in Seattle, WA. Contact her at:

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