The Court of Appeals of the State of Washington (“Washington Appellate Court”) held in its opinion published on September 27, 2021: “The trial court dismissed Jodi Williams’ professional negligence and malpractice claims against her former therapist, Shawn Gillies, because the claims were outside the statute of limitations. Williams presented evidence that Gillies violated the standard of care by engaging in a sexual relationship with her. Because the alleged negligent act occurred within the limitation period, we reverse and remand.”
The Washington Appellate Court stated that the statute of limitations for professional negligence and medical malpractice claims is three years, or one year after discovery of the negligence, whichever is later. RCW 4.16.350. The three year limitations period runs from the date of the act alleged to have caused the injury. RCW 4.16.350(3). In order to defeat a motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations, malpractice claimants must provide some evidence that the defendant’s negligent act occurred within the limitations period. Dismissal of a claim based on statute of limitations is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact as to when the statutory period commenced.
In the present case, Defendant Gillies, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), contended that he was not prohibited from sexual contact with Williams in 2018 because she was by then a former client and two years had passed since their last therapy session in 2015. Thus, he argued the statute of limitations began running from the last alleged sexual encounter the two had prior to 2018, which would have been September 2015. Gillies argued that because Williams filed her claims after September 2018, they are barred by the statute of limitations.
The Washington Appellate Court stated: “Gillies is correct in that until 2015, Section 1.5 of the applicable code of ethics for the AAMFT [American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists] expressly addresses prohibited sexual intimacy with former clients for two years following the termination of therapy. However, that did not mean that such a relationship could not have caused injury to the former client … AAMFT revised section 1.5 of the code in 2015 to be a blanket prohibition: “Sexual intimacy with former clients or with known members of the client’s family system is prohibited.” Gillies provides no alternative support for his assertion that he did not violate an LMFTs standard of care by engaging in a sexual relationship with Williams in 2018.”
The Washington Appellate Court held: “Williams provided evidence to the trial court that the standard of care required of LMFTs prohibited a sexual relationship with former clients. Williams alleged, and Gillies conceded, that they had a sexual relationship in 2018. Williams filed her complaint in 2020, well within the three-year statute of limitations, which runs from the date of the act alleged to have caused injury. The trial court erred in concluding Williams’ claims were time-barred and granting Gillies’ motion to dismiss. We reverse and remand back to the trial court for further proceedings.”
Source Williams v. Gillies, No. 82398-1-1.
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