Court Revises Voter’s Pamphlet Statement on Referendum 67

The second and likely final round of pre-election court hearings on Referendum 67 was held Friday, August 31.

Having previously challenged the language of the attorney general’s ballot title and measure summary, the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association (WSTLA) challenged the explanatory statement written by the attorney general for the voter’s pamphlet in Thurston County Superior Court. The purpose of the explanatory statement is to describe the law as it presently exists and the effect of the proposed measure if approved. Dana R. Bieber, who filed the Petition for Referendum on the Insurance Fair Conduct Act, which is the subject of Referendum 67, intervened to defend the statement as written. She contended that, if the statement was to be revised, it should mention all of the remedies available to a policyholder under existing law.

Although largely unmoved by WSTLA’s challenge, Judge Ann Hirsch made two noteworthy additions to the explanatory statement. First, the court added a sentence regarding the recoverability of attorney’s fees in insurance coverage disputes under existing law. Second, the court added a reference to the claims-handling regulations that, if violated, can trigger automatic liability under the proposed law. The court rejected WSTLA’s requests to delete a reference to the availability of remedies in addition to actual damages under existing law, to revise the discussion of existing law regarding punitive damages, and to diminish or delete discussion of the exemption of most health insurance from the proposed law. Click here to see the explanatory statement as revised by the court.

WSTLA was represented by Philip A. Talmadge of Talmadge Law Group PLLC. The secretary of state was represented by deputy solicitor general James K. Pharris. The referendum petitioner was represented by Timothy J. Parker and Jason W. Anderson of Carney Badley Spellman PS.