Representative Cases

Harrigan Leyh Farmer & Thomsen LLP is a top-ranked Seattle litigation firm handling complex civil litigation, employment litigation, and maritime and aviation litigation.  Our litigation team has been recognized as composed of “absolutely superb trial lawyers” by Chambers & Partners USA 2013, and has been acclaimed with a handful of Seattle firms as “highly recommended” by the legal rating firm Benchmark Litigation.  We have extensive trial experience; three of our lawyers are Fellows of the American College of Trial Lawyers.  The following is a description of some of the more notable litigation matters we have handled.

Complex Civil Litigation

Oso Landslide Litigation.  Working closely with members of the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, we successfully defended Snohomish County in what is believed to be the largest wrongful death case in Washington State history.  Plaintiffs represented the estates of 33 persons killed and 5 injured in the 2014 Oso Landslide.  We obtained consolidation of the four lawsuits and resisted a motion to change venue brought by another defendant at the trial court level and on appeal.  Then, after rigorous discovery and through a series of summary judgment motions, we obtained a judgment dismissing all claims against the County, defeating a complex range of statutory and common law claims.  We continue to represent Snohomish County in the courts of appeal. 

City of Mercer Island/Sound Transit Light Rail Litigation.  Together with the City Attorney, we represented the City of Mercer Island in its widely publicized fight to mitigate the impacts of the closure of the center express lanes of I-90, as part of Sound Transit’s expansion of light rail to Seattle’s east side.  The case involved intense litigation in multiple forums, including the state trial court, the Growth Management Hearings Board, the Shorelines Hearings Board, and the State Supreme Court.  After hearings on a diverse range of issues, and just ahead of a hearing on the City's request for an injunction, the City Council accepted a settlement offer of $10.1 million in mitigation payments from Sound Transit.

Microsoft/Motorola Patent Litigation.  The firm represented Microsoft in a number of patent lawsuits.  In September 2013, we obtained a $15 million jury verdict on behalf of Microsoft in a case involving Motorola’s breach of commitments it made to standard-setting organizations that it would license certain of its standard essential patents on RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms.  The case was the first of its kind to proceed through trial, and established precedent that will guide future disputes over the licensing of standard essential patents.  As part of this litigation, in April 2012, we argued motions resulting in a restraining order barring Motorola from enforcing any injunction against Windows sales in Germany that might arise from German litigation between the same parties, a landmark patent ruling.

InfoSpace Litigation.  We represented the founder and former CEO of InfoSpace for injunctive relief under a non-compete agreement and for violation of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.  We defeated preliminary injunctive relief, were awarded fees, and prevailed on summary judgment.  We also represented the client in an action against InfoSpace in Delaware Chancery Court to compel payment of defense costs in connection with appeal of $247 million Section16(b) judgment against the client based on short swing profit claims.  We assumed representation of the 16(b) litigation from former counsel following the adverse judgment by handling the appeal to the Ninth Circuit of the $247 million judgment.  The matter settled after briefs were filed in the Ninth Circuit. 

Washington State Retirement System Class Action Litigation, 181 Wn.2d 212, 332 P.3d 428 (2014).  We represented the State of Washington in a $2 billion class action involving nearly one hundred thousand State employees and retirees.  Plaintiffs were members of one of the State’s retirement systems and challenged the State’s repeal of a cost of living adjustment which occurred as a consequence of the economic downturn.  The case involved unique constitutional and legislative authority issues. We successfully obtained a partial dismissal of the class claims, narrowing the class and the magnitude of the claims sought.  Our firm then successfully obtained an interlocutory appeal of an adverse summary judgment ruling as to the remaining class claims directly to the Washington Supreme Court, which in a unanimous decision reversed the trial court’s decision leading to dismissal of the case with prejudice. 

King County Wastewater Litigation.  178 Wn.2d 763, 315 P.3d 1065 (2013).  Our firm represented King County, Washington, in defending against over $250 million in claims brought by two local water and sewer districts against the County’s Wastewater Treatment Division.  The water and sewer districts alleged that the County had improperly used sewage fees for a variety of non-wastewater treatment purposes, including mitigation projects related to the construction of a new regional wastewater facility.  The case involved complex legal and factual issues regarding debt financing, accounting, and regulatory requirements affecting wastewater treatment providers.  The case also involved novel issues regarding the use of wastewater treatment funds for general water quality purposes and to develop a reclaimed water system.  Our firm successfully obtained dismissal of several claims in a series of pre-trial summary judgment motions.  We then tried the remaining claims in a six-week trial involving nearly three dozen witnesses.  The trial court ruled in King County’s favor on all but one small issue.  We represented King County in the subsequent appeal at the Washington State Supreme Court.  On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court rulings in favor of the County and reversed the only trial court ruling against the County.   

Port of Seattle Rail Corridor Litigation.  178 Wn. App. 110, 316 P.3d 1070 (2013).  We represented the Port of Seattle in defending against a claim challenging the Port’s $81 million acquisition of a former rail corridor called the Eastside Rail Corridor.  Plaintiff taxpayers alleged that the Port lacked the authority to acquire the rail corridor because it was unrelated to the Port’s seaport and airport operations.  The case involved questions related to the core duties and functions of a port district and a port’s ability to plan for future economic developments.  After extensive discovery, our firm successfully resisted class certification and eventually obtained a summary judgment dismissing the claim.  After plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Washington Court of Appeals, our firm represented the Port at the appeal and obtained a unanimous decision in the Port’s favor affirming the trial court.  We now represent the Port in a lawsuit pending in federal court alleging that the Port did not have the authority to sell easements in the rail corridor. 

Internet / Technology.  Our firm represents a wide range of technology companies in matters relating to e-commerce, data transfer, privacy, and marketing, including class action defense and in responses to regulatory investigations by state and federal agencies. 

Sports Litigation.  We represented King County in connection with Seattle Mariners effort to break the Kingdome lease, including briefing the issue of its rights under the “attendance guaranty” clause.  As a result of persuading the appraiser that the County’s interpretation was correct, the price to the local buyer who then purchased the team was $30 million lower than a “national price” would have been.  We also represented King County in stopping the Seattle Seahawks’ attempt to move the team to Southern California.  The case entailed securing a TRO, litigating simultaneously in two counties, filing emergency appeals, arguing before the State Supreme Court, and making a presentation to all NFL owners on engineering issues relating to the seismic safety of the Kingdome, all in a three-month period (case resolved when Paul Allen acquired the team and built a new Seattle stadium).

Olympic Pipe Line Litigation.  We defended the Olympic Pipe Line Company in the aftermath of the tragic gasoline spill in Bellingham, Washington, which led to three deaths, and negotiated a global resolution of all criminal, civil, and debarment proceedings on behalf of Olympic, which was a private company owned by three-publicly traded Fortune 500 oil companies. 

Allied Exhaust Antitrust Litigation.  723 F.3d 1019 (CA9 2011).  Our firm represented Allied Exhaust, Inc., in defending against antitrust claims by a competitor who alleged price discrimination. The case involved historical practices among the distributors and the manufacturers, as well as novel questions arising under the Sherman Act and the Robinson Patman Act.  We obtained a summary judgment dismissing the claims on the eve of trial.  On appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, our firm obtained a ruling affirming the district court’s summary judgment ruling. 

Port of Seattle Whistleblower Litigation.  We represented the Port of Seattle in a False Claims Act investigation into alleged irregularities in the Port’s contracting practices.  We worked with the government to obtain their agreement not to bring any civil or criminal enforcement actions against the Port or its employees. As in other cases we have handled, we also defended the Port in related employment lawsuit brought by a whistleblower, and obtained a complete dismissal.

Employment Litigation

Strain v. West Travel, 117 Wn. App. 251, 70 P.3d 158 (2003).  Our firm represented a renowned local Alaska cruise operator in a putative class action case alleging violations of Washington’s Minimum Wage Act.  Plaintiffs’ class, consisting of customer service representatives, stewards, maids, and cooks, alleged that the company had failed to pay its employees minimum wages on cruise ships that operated in Washington, Alaska, Oregon, British Columbia, and Mexico.  The case involved the precedent-setting issue of whether the federal Fair Labor Standards Act preempted state law when applied to cruise ship companies operating in various states and jurisdictions.  We represented the cruise ship line during discovery and successfully moved for summary judgment resulting in dismissal of the case.  Upon appeal, we also successfully represented the cruise ship line in the Washington State Court of Appeals where we received a unanimous opinion affirming the superior court’s dismissal.  Subsequently, the case has been relied upon and cited frequently throughout the country regarding federal preemption on issues related to both employment and maritime law.

InfoSpace v. Naveen Jain.  We represented the founder of InfoSpace, Naveen Jain, in defending a non-compete action brought by InfoSpace against Jain after his termination seeking to shut down his new business, Intelius Inc.  Following a four-day evidentiary hearing, the court rejected a request to enjoin Jain and awarded fees to our client.  Following extensive discovery, the entire non-compete case was dismissed on summary judgment.

Maritime & Aviation Litigation

“Whale Wars” Proceeding for Injunctive Relief.  We defended Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an anti-poaching group focused on marine conservation featured in the Animal Planet documentary series Whale Wars, in proceedings by Japanese whalers seeking injunctive relief.   

Maritime Personal Injury.  We represented the owner of a fishing vessel.  The plaintiff was shot multiple times by an intoxicated crewmember during an altercation aboard the vessel.  The plaintiff claimed to be a Jones Act seaman based on an alleged oral job offer, and alleged the vessel was unseaworthy due to the assailant’s “dangerous propensities.”  The federal district court dismissed the case on our motion for summary judgment, concluding that the plaintiff did not have the status of a Jones Act seaman and that the employer did not have knowledge of the assailant’s violent nature.  The dismissal was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit.

Major Cargo Loss.  A dedicated car carrier transporting 5,000 Mazda vehicles from Japan to Canada and the United States lost stability during a mid-Pacific ballast exchange.  The vessel was towed to the Aleutian Islands where it was righted then towed to Portland, Oregon.  Although the loss was governed by U.S. COGSA, a forum selection clause in the bill of lading mandated that the $100 million plus loss be tried in Japan.  Our firm orchestrated the successful prosecution of the case in Japan, preparing all damage and liability experts and briefing for presentation by local counsel.

A large shipment of rare French wine suffered freezing damage during transshipment between two marine carriers.  The substantial loss affected worldwide high-end wine prices.  We negotiated a near 100% recovery on behalf of our client on the eve of trial.

Vessel Arrest.  A London bank financed construction of a fleet of state-of-the-art catcher processors in Holland and the defendant vessel owner defaulted on the $80 million loan.  Our firm was retained to arrest two of the vessels on arrival in the Pacific Northwest.  We successfully located and seized the vessels, repatriated their Russian and Polish crew and negotiated a favorable sale of the vessels to a buyer in New Zealand.

Vessel Grounding, Wreck Removal, and Pollution Abatement.  In a case involving the grounding and sinking of a fishing vessel in an Alaska marine sanctuary, our firm coordinated with government and private entities for wreck removal and pollution abatement and favorably settled crewmember personal injury and wage loss claims arising out of the incident.

Insurance Coverage.  The assured sought to recover in excess of $5 million under its hull and machinery and increased value insurance policies for the alleged loss of its fishing trawler to foreign business interests.  We convinced the assured to voluntarily dismiss its claim under the hull policy and obtained a dismissal of the case against the increased value underwriters on summary judgment.

Harrigan Leyh Farmer & Thomsen LLP

Since 1986 our firm has provided trusted counsel to a wide range of businesses, public entities, and individuals.