Washington Law Review

Comment

Don't Say Depression: Specific Diagnosable Injuries Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination's Privilege Statute

October 31, 2019 | 94 Wash. L. Rev. 1451

Abstract:  In 2018, the Washington State Legislature amended the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) to prevent automatic waivers of physician- and psychologist-patient privileges when plaintiffs claim non-economic, emotional distress damages. This legislation appears to be in response to the Washington Court of Appeals’ decision Lodis v. Corbis Holding, Inc., which held that a plaintiff waives their patient- and psychologist-privilege merely by alleging emotional distress damages. The new law, RCW 49.60.510, prevents waiver unless the plaintiff alleges a specific diagnosable injury, relies on the testimony of a healthcare or psychiatric expert, or claims a “failure to accommodate a disability or discrimination on the basis of a disability.” RCW 49.60.510 does not specify what constitutes a specific diagnosable injury, but the legislative history suggests the Legislature was attempting to shift WLAD’s privilege law towards a standard similar to one used in federal courts. This Comment explores the federal court’s psychotherapist-patient privilege waiver and argues that federal courts’ privilege jurisprudence can provide some clarity to the ambiguity of “specific diagnosable” injuries. It further argues that courts’ failure to consider this legislative goal risks a return to the Lodis-era waiver standard.
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