It all began with an auto accident after Alicia Thompson, who is white rear-ended a car driven by Janelle Henderson, who is Black.
Henderson and her lawyer sued for $3.5 million dollars, claiming that the accident made tics and pain connected to her existing Tourette’s Syndrome were made worse by the accident.
But, during the trial, the eyewitnesses at the accident scene described Henderson as “combative” and “confrontational.” Three of Henderson’s friends described her as “the life of the party.”
As a result, the jury tossed out the sought-after $3.5 million and awarded her only $9,200 dollars. That did not sit well with Henderson’s lawyer, so he sued again claiming, what else? Racism. ” He claimed that the terms “combative” and “confrontational” were racist terms.
Those terms are commonly used on “Cops” and law and order programs. In fact, in most cases, the ones being described by those two terms are skinny white men. Of course, that is not how the liberal Washington State Supreme Court saw it.
Hans Bader said:
I have called opposing litigants and counsel confrontational and combative in the past, because in those cases, they were. Race had nothing to do with it — most of those combative people were white!
In response to the request for a new trial, the trial judge did what trial courts would do in most of the country in this situation: it refused to do so. The Washington State Supreme Court reversed that ruling, saying that the burden was on the defendant — a white woman — to prove the judgment was not affected by racism. If the white woman can’t prove that, the plaintiff can have a new trial, and sue her all over again.
The Washington Supreme Court in a powerful, unanimous opinion Thursday ruled that a new trial is the only adequate remedy in civil cases where racial bias was a factor in court, finding that “race-based” misconduct can “never be a harmless error.”
The opinion is the latest issued by the justices aimed at addressing and removing racism from the state court system.
The court, ruling in a personal injury case resulting from a car crash, concluded that the trial court should have held a hearing to explore the allegations of racial bias raised by the defense, and ordered it back to King County Superior Court for such a hearing and almost certainly a new trial.
The opinion states an evidentiary hearing about racial bias must be held if the court is presented with evidence that an “objective observer” — defined by the justices as “someone who is aware that implicit, institutional, and unconscious biases, in addition to purposeful discrimination, have influenced jury verdicts in Washington State” — could conclude racial bias was a factor in a verdict.
The court actually ruled that the defendant had to prove there was no racism involved in the decision and not the plaintiff. If you claim racism, it should be you to prove your case. How do you prove no racism? It’s impossible to prove a negative.
Attorney Mark Lamb told Seattle KIRO radio host Dori Monson…
…“The presumption is going to be that you are biased, you are racist,” Lamb explained to Dori’s listeners. “The burden is on the party that effectively won at trial.”
“It is trying to imbue race consciousness into our system in a way that is not remedial but is insidious and will have very disastrous consequences to bring our country together. It’s going to heighten racial consciousness and identity and that is not going to be good for our state.”