Joel E. Wright, Shareholder

Phone: 206.621.3474
Toll Free: 877.624.7990
Fax: 206.624.5944
Email: jw@leesmart.com
VCF file

Joel E. Wright is a 1974 graduate of the Ohio State University. He was awarded his J.D. magna cum laude from the Gonzaga University Law School in 1978. Mr. Wright has been in the practice of law for over 35 years as a litigator. He is an “AV” rated lawyer from Martindale Hubbell and listed in Best Lawyers in America. He is a member of the American Bar Association, Washington State Bar Association, Washington Defense Counsel Association and the Defense Research Institute.

Mr. Wright’s practice is the defense of professional liability tort claims with emphasis in the areas of legal malpractice, medical malpractice and the defense of other professionals, accountants, real estate agents. Mr. Wright’s practice includes director and officer liability claims and suits stemming from wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, libel, slander and defamation claims.

Representative Cases

  • Askin v. Vander Stoep – 132 Wn. App. 1009 (2006).  Ms. Askin appealed a summary judgment dismissing her claim against the law firm for negligently failing to investigate and establish the terms of a buy/sell agreement.  Although the case was reversed on appeal, it was successfully defended in the trial court.
  • Old National Title Ins. v. Law Offices of Robert Brandt – COA 142 Wn. App. 71.  The case held that an informal phone call to the plaintiff’s attorneys constituted an informational appearance and therefore no default could be taken.  We represented an additional 20 cases for MR. Brandt who had an escrow practice.
  • Lohman v. Melcher Manufacturing –  189 Wn. App. 1001.  Mr. Lohman appealed the dismissal of his personal injury claim arguing that the trial court incorrectly determined that he was not the real party in interest.  The court found on appeal that the bankruptcy trustee was the real party in interest and affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.
  • Velocity v. Capital Partners, LLC v. Lasher – 189 Wn.  App. 1017.  After discovering that commercial borrowers had not signed the promissory note and the deed of trust evidencing a loan from Velocity, Capital Partners sued its attorney for legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty.  The trial court dismissed Velocity’s claims as barred by the applicable statute of limitations.  On appeal, the court sustained the trial court.
  • Widrig v. Vilas at Meadow Springs – 186 Wn.  App. 1036, (Mar. 2015) Owner and manager of an apartment.  There was a dispute concerning the indemnification of the landlord.  The case involved improper security, measures at an apartment building allowing a rape to occur.  The appeal was a dispute as to the carriers indemnity action.
  • Muse Apartments, LLC v. Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co. of Am. –  No. C12-2021RSL, 2013 WL 6062340 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 18, 2013).  Representation of the Travelers Insurance Carrier involving a crime policy.  Summary judgments were granted as to coverage, the court holding that the policy did not provide coverage to third-parties who were not named insureds in the policy.
  • Beck v. Grafe –  2015 WL 90977002.  This is the second summary judgment in a companion case of Beck v. Grafe.  The Superior Court has twice dismissed the action on summary judgment with the Court of Appeals reversing, finding questions of fact as to a departed associate’s duty to a former client.  See also, 174 Wn. App. 1034.
  • Lloyd’s v. Lasher.  Representation of a lawyer who was sued by the insurance carrier of his client for negligent misrepresentation.  Lloyd’s paid a $3.5 million judgment.  Case filed in Federal Court and settled with summary judgments pending.
  • DGHI Enterprises v. Pacific Cities, Inc. – Trial – Defense of realtor arising out of claims of fraud and usurping corporate opportunities. Directed verdict and award of $125,000 in legal fees for our client. [91 Wn. App. 109] reversed [137 Wn.2d 933 (1999)]
  • Edgar v. City of Tacoma – Wrongful death involving Cushman Dam electrocution. Case involving employer and general contractor liability and alleged immunity from suit under Title 51. This case clarified the allocation of fault to an immune party issue in the State of Washington. The right to jury trial includes the right to have a jury determine the allocation of fault to all non-immune entities. A jury is not permitted to allocate fault to the plaintiff’s employer. Supreme Court decision interpreting the Tort Reform Act. [129 Wn.2d 621 (1996)]
  • Ingersoll v. Tacoma Mall – Defense of mall operator arising out of premises liability claims. Re-established the notice requirement for premises claims in the State of Washington. [123 Wn.2d 649 (1994)]
  • Kauzlarich v. Yarbrough – Defense of lawyer sued by non-clients for defamation and slander. Dismissed on summary judgment. [105 Wn. App. 632]
  • Knott v. RSR Liberty Guns – Defense of gun distributor; successfully defeated application of Saturday Night Special law. [50 Wn. App. 267, 748 P.2d 661 (1988)]
  • Harrington v. Pailthorp – Defense of lawyer in malpractice suit arising out of claim by non-client. [67 Wn. App. 901 (1992)]
  • Mirotznick v. Sensney, Davis – Legal malpractice defense for alleged misrepresentations in public bond offerings arising out of WPPSS default. Represented multiple city lawyers who allegedly made misrepresentations. [658 F. Supp. 92 (1986)]
  • King v. Swedish Hospital – Defense of cardiothoracic surgeons claimed for anti-trust activity, defamation and slander. Dismissal of Sherman Act antitrust claims.
  • Smith v. Simonarson – Defense of lawyer regarding alleged failure to record judgment following automatic stay of proceedings after judgment. [56 Wn. App. 157, 84 P.2d 552 (1990)]
  • Filler v. Hallett – Defense of tax lawyer dismissed on summary judgment. Alleged failure to assert installment sales treatment for real estate transaction. $1 million damages claimed. Affirmed on appeal. (unpublished)
  • Walstad v. Lindsey – Defense of whistle blowing director and former president from slander, liable defamation claims involving majority shareholder. The liable/slander claims were dismissed on summary judgment. Multi-million dollar allegations of damage.
  • Westbrook v. Cascade West Forest Products – Defense of lawyer arising from closely held corporation and escrow. Case dismissed on summary judgment upheld on appeal, in an unpublished opinion.
  • Kinder v. Sisters of Providence – Defense of hospital against claims of antitrust and monopolization of paramedic ambulance services in Lewis County. Dismissed by summary judgment.
  • Baker v. Kruse – Trial – Successful defense of domestic relations lawyer sued for improper handling of divorce, including emotion distress claims and alienation of children.
  • Hallet v. Battery Power Systems – Defense of employment discrimination claims for retaliation fining. Dismissed on summary judgment.
  • Travel Concepts v. Ultimate Travel – Defense of trademark and copyright claims.
  • Berry v. Fleury – Defense of lawyer sued for negligence in handling of dissolution matter. Claims relating to alienation of children, loss of visitation, emotional distress & CPA claim dismissed on summary judgment. Unpublished opinion.
  • Cedik v. Home Realty – Trial – Defense of realtor accused of fraud, misrepresentation and negligence. Claimed $400,000 damage. Directed judgment and award of all legal costs.
  • Fodor v. Jeffers Danielson, et al. – Defense of law firm in suit by client relating to denial of coverage by insurer for damage caused by fire intentionally started by claimant’s husband. Motion for summary judgment granted.
  • Morris v. Clearwater Properties – Defense of real estate agent accused of fraud and misrepresentations relating to diversion of a water stream. Motion for summary judgment granted and awarded $11,000 in legal fees to our client.
  • King Western v. Gentium Realty – Defense of real estate agent and brokers accused of fraud and misrepresentation. Alleged malpractice relating to disclosure of tenant improvements during the purchase by realtor’s client of the National Building in Seattle for $9.5 million. Case was successfully settled with contribution from the purchaser’s lawyer.
  • Ekstrom v. Gallagher – Arbitration resulting in a defense award. Defense of real estate agent accused of the unauthorized practice of law and drafting preclosing lease agreements. The court granted summary judgment on the claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation leaving the issue of unauthorized practice of law for the arbitration.
  • Stanley v. Donald B. Murphy Contractor – Trial – Defense of contractor in highway construction accident case; $750,000 demand; defense verdict.
  • Iachetta v. Westours, Inc. – Trial – Defense of river rafting company as a result of rafting accident. $500,000 demand; settled during second week of trial for $25,000.
  • Harmer v. DeBartolo Corporation – Trial – Defense of premises liability claim; directed verdict.
  • Smith v. Bronco Construction – Defense of contractor; suit by minor for injuries sustained on bicycle; defense verdict.
  • Stokes v. Stanley Smith – Defense of security company accused of wrongful discharge and sexual harassment.
  • Baker v. Kruse – Trial – Defense of legal malpractice claim arising out of dissolution proceeding; judgment for defense.
  • Fischer v. Tobiska – Defense of lawyer arising out of alleged failure to properly prepare lease option agreement relating to purchase of sod farm, adverse judgment. Judgment $250,000.
  • Corp v. Kinnear – Trial – Defense of lawyer for failure to file Robinson Patmon Act claims and franchising claims against ARCO. Damages claimed $3 million. After multiple motions of summary judgment, the case was dismissed. Affirmed on appeal, unpublished opinion.
  • Hagga v. Klein – Trial for sexual improprieties arising from lawyer’s representation of divorced client. Settled after trial started for nuisance value.
  • Martin v. Clayton – Successful mediation of legal malpractice claim. Lawyer alleged failure to adequately secure multiple purchase and sales contracts for apple packing company resulted in a $14 million adverse verdict against client. Amount confidential.
  • Grandchamp v. Kastel – Defense of lawyer for claims arising from fraud and negligence. Dismissed by summary judgment. Unpublished appellate decision upheld CR-11 sanctions against the plaintiff’s lawyer.
  • Hasson v. Baker – Trial. Defense of lawyer arising out of claims of alleged impropriety in settling the client’s case without permission. Judgment in favor of the lawyer on counterclaim for fees.
  • Seattle First National Bank v. Aetna – Successful defense of Aetna, Continental, and Chubb Insurance companies on bond claim arising from bank’s wrongful negotiation of fraudulent U.S. Treasury checks. Claimed loss in excess of $10 million.
  • Barrett v. Alexiou – Defense of legal malpractice claim for alleged negligence in representation of defendant in a suit for legal fees. Motion for summary judgment granted.
  • Skywood v. Slothower – Defense of lawyer in claims arising from closing of business sales transaction. Motion for summary judgment granted.
  • Meek v. Executive Real Estate – Defense of real estate agent accused of failing to notify condominium owners of the amount of an increase in maintenance fees. Motion for summary judgment granted.
  • Pritchett v. Whitaker – Defense of lawyer sued for handling representation of husband in dissolution proceedings involving alleged meretricious relationship. Dismissed on summary judgment.
  • Christensen v. Walker – Defense of who acted as an intermediary in a dissolution. Summary judgment was granted and then reversed by the Court of Appeals under cause no. 29234-3-11. Case is pending a motion for reconsideration in the Court of Appeals.
  • Mullen & Campbell v. Zylstra – Defense of a lawyer who defended Dr. Zylstra in a medical malpractice case. The verdict reached was in excess of the doctor’s policy limits. The doctor assigned his bad faith claim and malpractice claims to Mullen. This case has been dismissed on Summary Judgment.
  • Goldberg v. Preszler, __ Wn. App. __ (2006) was a suit by a separate property estate that was required to repay money to the community estate that the deceased had wrongfully diverted to his separate property accounts. The court found that the separate property estate could not suffer damages by being required to repay money it had no right to in the first place. The accountant, who had advised the deceased over the matter some thirty years before, could not be liable, because the estate had no loss. The court also denied attorney fees of a half million dollars, because the decision to defend was made with knowledge of all the relevant facts.
  • U.S. Bank v. Eel River Investment Company et al. – Defense of Seattle law firm in federal diversity action alleging violations of the Securities Act of Washington.  Favorable settlement of plaintiff’s claims achieved following demand for over $15 million in damages
  • Blystone v. Linsco/Private ledger Corp., et al. – Defense of registered investment advisor in securities arbitration before National Association of Securities Dealers – Dispute Resolution (NASD-DR).  Claimant alleged improper investment advice by two brokerages leading to significant losses.  Investment advisor challenged claim by stating that appropriate advice given and that claimant received investment products he asked for.  Favorable settlement of claimant’s claim achieved prior to arbitration

Toxic Tort

Regional counsel for formaldehyde litigation involving multiple class actions. Counsel for Washington Natural Gas and Sears, Roebuck & Co. in formaldehyde litigation. Lead counsel in over 125 lawsuits and seven jury trials. Regional counsel for Beadex Manufacturing Company – defense of asbestos related claims. Hill Brothers Chemical Company – defense of asbestos related claims.Other trial and legal experience available upon request.

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Practice Areas

Education

  • Gonzaga University School of Law, magna cum laude, 1978
  • Ohio State University, J.D., 1974

Admissions

  • Washington State Bar, 1978

Professional & Civic Affiliations

  • American Bar Association
  • Washington State Bar Association
  • Washington Defense Counsel Association
  • Defense Research Institute