Washington: A State in the Legal Spotlight

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(USA Herald) – 2023 is shaping up to be a crucial year for several landmark cases in Washington, with two cases in particular grabbing the attention of legal experts and the public. Samuel Lopez, an investigative reporter for the USA Herald, takes a closer look.

COVID-19 Coverage Suit Tests Legal Opening
The University of Washington is taking its insurance company to court, claiming that the firm wrongly refused to provide coverage for COVID-19 related losses. The university alleges that Employers Insurance Company of Wausau has refused to pay out under five “all risk” policies, despite the fact that COVID-19 caused direct physical damage to university hospitals and Husky Stadium, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.

Court rulings across the country have so far favored insurers in similar cases. However, the university is fighting back, arguing that COVID-19 constitutes direct physical damage to its properties, as the presence of the virus altered and impaired them.

As Samuel Lopez reports, the case takes on added significance given a recent decision by the Washington Supreme Court, which indicated that there may be a path for plaintiffs to win some COVID-19 coverage cases. The university cites two recent state high court decisions, including Hill and Stout v. Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Co., in support of its breach of contract suit.

LGBTQ Discrimination and Fiduciary Duty
Another case that’s grabbing headlines in Washington this year is a lawsuit against Seattle Pacific University (SPU), which is accused of implementing anti-LGBTQ hiring practices. A group of students, staff, and faculty have sued members of the school’s board of trustees, accusing them of breaching their fiduciary duty, fraudulent misrepresentation, and other claims.

The university argues that the First Amendment protects its hiring decisions based on religious doctrine, but the plaintiffs argue that the school’s primary function is education, regardless of its faith-based status.

As Samuel Lopez reports, this case raises important questions about the balance between compliance with the law and religious expression. The outcome could have implications for the fiduciary duty of other religious institutions in the state.