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Lawsuits Against WSU Personnel
As a consequence of performing official WSU duties, an individual WSU officer or employee may be named as a defendant in a lawsuit. If that occurs, the officer or employee may request legal defense by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and indemnification from the state.
Due to timelines for responding to a lawsuit, it is important that the employee or officer contact the AGO immediately upon being served with a summons and complaint.
Initiating a Request for Legal Defense and Indemnification
Summons and Complaint
Lawsuits are initiated by the service of legal process documentation. Upon receipt of a lawsuit (a summons and complaint), the individual employee or officer should note the date, time, and method of service of the documents.
Request for Individual Defense by AGO and Indemnification by the State
To request legal defense by the AGO, WSU employees or officers must complete the form titled Request for Individual Defense by the Attorney General (RCW 28B.10.842). To obtain a copy of the form, contact the WSU Division of the AGO; telephone 509-335-2636. The office is located on the WSU Pullman campus in the French Administration Building, Room 332.
Completing the Form
To complete the Request for Individual Defense by the Attorney General form, the employee or officer:
- Reads and retains the Information Sheet Regarding Defense of Tort Lawsuits Against State Employees, which is attached to the form.
- Completes the front page of the request for defense form. Figure 1 shows a blank sample of the page.
- Refers to the summons and complaint to obtain the case name, court name, and case number.
- Notes how and when the summons and complaint were received.
- Places a checkmark next to either “Do” or “Do Not” to indicate whether the employee/officer wants to have the Attorney General defend them in this action.
- Signs and dates the form.
The employee or officer retains a copy of the completed request for defense form and a copy of the summons and complaint.
The employee or officer returns the original signed form and the original summons and complaint to the WSU AGO.
WSU Attorney General’s Office
The WSU AGO conducts a preliminary inquiry to determine whether the officer or employee was acting in good faith within the scope of their official WSU duties in the situation that created the lawsuit.
The WSU AGO provides its recommendation regarding defense and indemnification to the President.
The President approves the request if they determine that the officer or employee was acting within the scope of their official WSU duties in the situation that created the lawsuit.
Board of Regents
If the President approves the request for defense, the WSU AGO asks the University to place the request on the agenda for the next Board of Regents meeting. The WSU AGO provides its recommendation regarding defense and indemnification to the Board of Regents.
The Board considers the issue of whether the individual was acting in good faith within the scope of their official WSU duties in the situation that created the lawsuit. If the Board concludes that the individual was so acting, the Board approves the request by adopting and signing a resolution that authorizes defense and indemnification. The Board sends a copy of the resolution to the WSU AGO.
Attorney General’s Office
If the WSU AGO and the Board of Regents determine that defense and indemnification are warranted, the WSU AGO forwards the request to the assistant attorney general in Olympia who is assigned to conduct the final review.
If the request is approved, the AGO defends the individual at no cost to the defendant and the state pays the costs of litigation, including any settlement costs or costs of verdicts entered against the defendant.
Individuals may choose to select and hire their own attorney to represent them. If individuals select their own attorney, such individuals are personally responsible for any and all resulting costs and fees, including all costs of verdicts entered against them.