Washington Court of Appeals opinion serves as a strong reminder to double check filing requirements for appealing BIIA orders
On September 8, 2020, the Washington Court of Appeals published a decision that serves as a reminder of the importance of double checking state and local rules in order to timely and appropriately file appellate documents. In Long Painting Co., Inc. v. Mark Donkel, the Court of Appeals ruled the employer failed to timely file its appeal, and thus the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (BIIA) order allowing a worker’s occupational disease claim was final and binding.
Legal Requirements for Notice of Appeals
Washington law requires notice of appeals of BIIA decisions be filed in superior court and served on necessary parties within 30 days of the decision. RCW 51.52.110. This filing is required for the superior court to have the necessary appellate jurisdiction to hear the appeal; otherwise, the superior court lacks authority to act in the case. Parties must also serve notice of the appeal on both the Director of Department of Labor & Industries and the BIIA within 30 days of the Board’s decision. Corona v. Boeing Co., 111 Wn. App. 1, 8 (2002). Parties are also expected to follow any local court rules that may apply.
In this case, Long Painting Company initially filed its notice of appeal of the Board’s order electronically with the King County Superior Court on the last Friday before the 30-day window closed. The employer further mailed notices of the appeal to the Director, the BIIA, and the worker as each is a necessary party per RCW 51.52.110. The following Monday, the superior court clerk rejected the appeal as local court rules did not allow for electronic filing of administrative appeals. The employer’s attorney emailed the worker’s attorney, stating the appeal would not move forward as his office did not hand deliver the appeal as required by local court rules. However, three months later, Long Painting Company’s new attorney filed a hardcopy of the notice of appeal. The worker successfully moved to dismiss the appeal as untimely, and Long Painting Company appealed the dismissal to the Court of Appeals.
On appeal, Long Painting Company argued that the initial electronic filing complied with, or at least substantially complied with, RCW 52.51.100’s filing requirements and thus the superior court had appellate jurisdiction to hear the case. The Court of Appeals rejected both arguments.
The Court of Appeals determined Long Painting Company failed to comply with the required filing requirements to invoke King County Superior Court’s appellate jurisdiction. Washington’s Civil Rules allow court clerks to refuse to accept filings that do not meet the requirements of both the Civil Rules themselves as well as local rules and practices. CR 5(e). As King County Superior Court local rules required paper filing, rather than e-filing, of petitions to review administrative law rulings/decisions, the court clerk was within their discretion to reject Long Painting Company’s e-filed notice of appeal.
Further, the Court also found Long Painting Company failed to substantially comply with the filing requirements. “Substantial compliance” with procedural rules can invoke appellate jurisdiction when a party has “actual compliance,” with procedural faults, with the “substance” of the statutory requirement. In re Matter of Saltis, 94 Wn.2d 889, 896 (1980); City of Seattle v. Pub. Emp’t Relations Comm’n, 116 Wn.2d 923, 928 (1991). “Substantial compliance,” however, does not extend to a party’s failure to comply with statutory time limits as the time limit is either met or it is not (e.g. RCW 51.52.110’s 30-day filing and service requirements). Krawiec v. Red Dot Corp., 189 Wn. App. 234, 241 (2015); City of Seattle, 116 Wn.2d at 928-29.
The Court of Appeals found the Long Painting Company failed to substantially comply with procedural rules as it ignored the applicable local rule’s clear paper filing requirement, waited three months to attempt refiling, and therefore failed to properly file the notice of appeal. The Court rejected the employer’s attempts to analogize the situation to other cases where parties were found to substantially comply, finding each case the employer cited was narrow and limited to either facts outside a party’s control (timely notice lost in the mail) or an easily fixed error that did not involve timeliness (timely notice filed in the wrong county; timely notice mailed to an Assistant Attorney General versus Department Director). Despite Long Painting Company’s argument that its e-filed notice still reached the superior court within the 30-day timeframe, the requirements of RCW 51.52.110 were unmet regardless of the employer’s intentions and the Court of Appeals found this failure did not substantially comply with the statutory requirements.
This case serves as a good reminder to not only decide quickly whether to appeal an unfavorable Board decision, but to also research all the steps necessary for properly filing the notice of appeal. While the introduction of electronic filing and service has made meeting many timeframe requirements easier, Long Painting Co. reinforces the need to ensure whether a document can even be filed electronically. Each county has its own set of local rules, and while taking the extra time to research and read them for every filing may seem cumbersome, failing to can prove substantially costlier than time spent crossing T’s and dotting I’s.
If you have any questions about the requirements to properly file an appeal of a recent Board decision, please do not hesitate to contact me at or (503) 412-3117.