Bar Bulletin

Bar Bulletin

Washington Supreme Court Review: County Coroner’s Subpoena PowerCurbed in Absence of Inquest

April 2019 Bar Bulletin

 

BNSF Railway Co. v. 
Thomas B. Clark, MD, and
Pierce County Medical Examiner
No. 95015-6, January 31, 2019 (9-0)

Chief Justice Fairhurst Writes for the Court

This case involves a practice that dates back to our earliest days as a territory—the coroner’s inquest. Although we now typically use experts to determine the cause of an unnatural death, historically we relied on the verdict of a coroner’s inquest jury. The parties before us ask how a coroner today may invoke the statutory authority that accompanies an inquest.

This case arose after Thomas B. Clark, MD, the Pierce County medical examiner (ME),1...

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