IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.,
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, STATE OF
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.,
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, STATE OF
Van Deren, J. — Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., appeals from the superior court’s order
denying its summary judgment motion and granting summary judgment to the Washington State
Department of Revenue (DOR). Wells Fargo contends that: (1) RCW 82.32.060(4) required
payment of interest on a refund arising from settlement of a tax dispute through a closing
agreement with DOR; and (2) Wells Fargo did not waive its statutory right to interest in entering
the closing agreement. DOR cross-appeals, contending that the trial court erred in denying its
motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction under chapter 34.05 RCW, the Washington
Administrative Procedure Act (APA), because Wells Fargo failed to file its action within 30 days
of DOR’s final decision denying interest. We agree with DOR, decline to reach the merits of this
case, and reverse and remand for dismissal of Wells Fargo’s action because the superior court
could not exercise jurisdiction over the matter due to Wells Fargo’s untimely appeal following
DOR’s decision denying interest in addition to the final agreed settlement amount.
Wells Fargo filed a series of tax refund requests with DOR. After auditing Wells Fargo’s
financial records, DOR’s audit division granted the refund requests in part and denied them in
part. Wells Fargo filed appeal petitions with DOR to contest the partial denials. At a hearing,
Wells Fargo’s tax counsel informed the administrative law judge (ALJ)1 assigned to the appeal
that Wells Fargo wished to settle the appeals.
Wells Fargo and DOR (through the ALJ) exchanged a series of offers and counteroffers,
resulting in DOR accepting Wells Fargo’s counteroffer for a “total refund” of $1,997,685.
Clerk’s Papers (CP) at 425. During negotiations neither party discussed whether interest was
included in this settlement amount. The negotiations ultimately resulted in the execution of a
closing agreement authorized by RCW 82.32.350.
The closing agreement recited, “[DOR] has denied portions of refund requests submitted
by [Wells Fargo] . . . seeking the refund of business and occupation tax remitted by [Wells
Fargo].” CP at 953. It then recited the refund requests, the applicable refund period for each
request, and the dollar amount of taxes disputed in each refund request. The closing agreement
further recited, “[DOR] and [Wells Fargo] acknowledge the complexity of the factual and/or
In its briefing, DOR states that, due to the informal and non-adversarial appeal proceedings, its
ALJs are not third-party neutrals but employees of DOR “‘trained in the interpretation of the
Revenue Act and precedents established by prior rulings and court decisions.’” Br. of Resp’t. at 3
(quoting WAC 458-20-100(5)).
legal issues underlying the assessments, as well as the expense and uncertainty of administrative
and/or judicial proceedings, and agree it is in their mutual interest to compromise and settle all
issues relating to these assessments.” CP at 953.
The agreement’s provisions followed the recitals, including:
1. [DOR] will refund $1,997,685 to [Wells Fargo].
2. Execution of this agreement by [DOR] and [Wells Fargo] operates as a
dismissal, with prejudice, of [Wells Fargo’s] petitions for refund now pending
before [DOR’s] Appeals Division and as an unconditional waiver by [Wells Fargo]
of any right to further challenge the assessments or [DOR] to pursue collection of
the assessment in any administrative or judicial proceeding.
8. This agreement, and the documents executed in accordance with the
provisions hereof, embrace and include the entire transaction between the parties
and may not be changed except upon the written assent of all parties hereto.
CP at 954.
On April 1, 2008, DOR issued Wells Fargo a refund check for $1,997,685. On April 7,
Wells Fargo’s tax counsel emailed the ALJ, asking, “[I]s there some reason interest was not
included [in the refund check]?” CP at 965. On April 9, the ALJ replied, stating that Wells
Fargo’s counteroffer was for a “‘total refund amount,’” that “the amount negotiated was the total
refund,” and that “[i]nterest is not automatically included in settlements” and must be specifically
requested and negotiated. CP at 964-65. On April 11, Wells Fargo sent a letter to the ALJ
protesting the payment of its refund without interest and stating that RCW 82.32.060 required
payment of interest on its refund. The ALJ replied the same day, stating that she had notified her
supervisor, the Assistant Director of DOR’s Appeals Division, of the matter and that the Assistant
Director would provide a response.
On April 15, the Assistant Director replied with a letter stating that settlements do not
automatically include interest, the closing agreement was “a negotiated compromise of the total
disputed liability,” “the payment made constituted the total settlement amount,” and the closing
agreement was “final and conclusive of tax liability or immunity.” CP at 972-73. The letter
concluded, “I hope this clarifies why the payment made constituted the total settlement amount.
Please contact me . . . if you require additional information.” CP at 973. Wells Fargo’s tax
counsel understood from the letter that DOR did not intend to take any further action regarding
Wells Fargo’s claim.
Over five months later, on September 22, 2008, Wells Fargo’s outside counsel sent a
demand letter to the Senior Assistant Attorney General reiterating its claim that RCW 82.32.060
entitled it to interest on its refund, referring to the April 15 letter as “rejecting” Wells Fargo’s
interest claim, and requesting that the Senior Assistant Attorney General “advise [DOR] of its
error so that the issue [could] be resolved short of litigation.” CP at 991. Wells Fargo stated it
would file suit if a “satisfactory interest payment” was not arranged within 60 days. CP at 991.
According to Wells Fargo’s outside counsel, the Senior Assistant Attorney General called,
said he would discuss the issue with DOR, and requested that Wells Fargo contact him before
suing to prompt a response from DOR. After expiration of the 60-day period, Wells Fargo again
asked the Senior Assistant Attorney General whether DOR was responding to its claim. A few
days later, the Assistant Director of DOR’s Appeals Division contacted Wells Fargo, said DOR
would like to resolve the matter short of litigation, and made a settlement offer. The parties
exchanged further counteroffers, apparently without reaching agreement.
On January 22, 2009, Wells Fargo sued DOR in superior court, alleging that the trial court
had jurisdiction under RCW 2.08.010, RCW 7.24.010, and the APA. Wells Fargo’s complaint
stated in part that “[DOR’s] failure to perform its statutory duty to pay interest on Wells Fargo’s
tax refund [wa]s arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law” and sought, in part, a declaratory
judgment that Wells Fargo was entitled to interest on its tax refund and a judgment ordering DOR
to pay interest. CP at 5. After DOR unsuccessfully moved under CR 12(b)(1) to dismiss Wells
Fargo’s complaint as untimely under the APA, Wells Fargo amended its complaint. The amended
complaint still requested a declaratory judgment. DOR then counterclaimed for the amount it had
paid Wells Fargo under the closing agreement. Both parties moved for summary judgment on
Wells Fargo’s claims. The superior court granted summary judgment to DOR and denied Wells
Wells Fargo appeals the superior court order denying its summary judgment motion.
DOR cross-appeals the superior court’s order denying its motion to dismiss because Wells Fargo
did not file a timely action under the APA before proceeding to superior court. We heard oral
argument on September 9, 2011.
During oral argument, the parties raised the issue of continuing negotiations on the
interest dispute. Following oral argument, we ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of when
the 30-day period began to run for purposes of appealing, under the APA, DOR’s rejection of
Wells Fargo’s claims. DOR responded that the April 15, 2008 letter remained its final action on
the tax refund claim, but if it was not, then its final settlement offer on the interest dispute still
occurred more than 30 days before Wells Fargo filed its lawsuit. DOR included a December 12,
2008 email correspondence between the parties about their settlement negotiations, but this
document was not admitted at the superior court and DOR did not move to supplement the
record with it; thus, we do not consider this document. RAP 10.3(a)(8) (“An appendix to [a]
brief may not include materials not contained in the record on review without permission from
[us], except as provided in rule 10.4(c)”). Wells Fargo maintains that the 30-day filing
requirement of the APA does not apply in this case because there was no final order by DOR.
DOR argues that the superior court erred in denying its motion to dismiss because Wells
Fargo did not timely file its challenge to DOR’s action under the APA. Wells Fargo responds that
(1) DOR’s denial of its interest claim was an agency action excluded from the APA’s procedures;
(2) Wells Fargo’s interest claim fell under exceptions to the APA’s judicial review procedures; (3)
DOR’s April 15 letter denying its interest claim was not a final agency action; and (4) even if the
APA applied and DOR’s April 15 letter was a final agency action, Wells Fargo’s claim was a
contract claim over which the superior court could alternatively exercise original jurisdiction. We
agree with DOR that Wells Fargo untimely filed its lawsuit under the APA and, thus, Wells
Fargo’s claims fail.
I. Agency Action Governed by the Administrative Procedures Act
A. Standard of Review
We review de novo a motion to dismiss under CR 12(b)(1). Todric Corp. v. Dep’t. of
Revenue, 109 Wn. App. 785, 788 n.2, 37 P.3d 1238 (2002). We also review de novo issues of
statutory interpretation. Dep’t of Ecology v. Campbell & Gwinn, LLC, 146 Wn.2d 1, 9, 43 P.3d
4 (2002). Our fundamental objective in statutory interpretation is to give effect to the
legislature’s intent. Campbell & Gwinn, 146 Wn.2d at 9. If a statute’s meaning is plain on its
face, then we give effect to that plain meaning as an expression of legislative intent. State ex rel.
Citizens Against Tolls (CAT) v. Murphy, 151 Wn.2d 226, 242, 88 P.3d 375 (2004). We discern
plain meaning not only from the provision in question but also from closely related statutes and
the underlying legislative purposes. Murphy, 151 Wn.2d at 242. If a statute is susceptible to
more than one reasonable interpretation after this inquiry, then the statute is ambiguous and we
may resort to additional canons of statutory construction or legislative history. Campbell &
Gwinn, 146 Wn.2d at 12.
We give effect to all statutory language, considering statutory provisions in relation to
each other and harmonizing them to ensure proper construction. King County v. Cent. Puget
Sound Growth Mgmt. Hearings Bd., 142 Wn.2d 543, 560, 14 P.3d 133 (2000). We avoid
construing a statute in a manner that results in “unlikely, absurd, or strained consequences.”
Glaubach v. Regence BlueShield, 149 Wn.2d 827, 833, 74 P.3d 115 (2003).
B. Agency Action Exclusions
RCW 34.05.510 provides: “This chapter establishes the exclusive means of judicial review
of agency action.” RCW 34.05.010(3) provides:
‘Agency action’ means licensing, the implementation or enforcement of a
statute, the adoption or application of an agency rule or order, the imposition of
sanctions, or the granting or withholding of benefits. Agency action does not
include an agency decision regarding (a) contracting or procurement of goods,
services, public works, and the purchase, lease, or acquisition by any other means,
including eminent domain, of real estate, as well as all activities necessarily related
to those functions, or (b) determinations as to the sufficiency of a showing of
interest filed in support of a representation petition, or mediation or conciliation of
labor disputes or arbitration of labor disputes under a collective bargaining law or
similar statute, or (c) any sale, lease, contract, or other proprietary decision in the
management of public lands or real property interests, or (d) the granting of a
license, franchise, or permission for the use of trademarks, symbols, and similar
property owned or controlled by the agency.
In Muckleshoot Indian Tribe v. Dep’t. of Ecology, 112 Wn. App. 712, 718, 50 P.3d 668
(2002), Division One of this court considered whether an “Instream Flow Agreement” executed
among the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, the Department of Ecology (DOE), and other parties was
reviewable under the APA as an agency action. The court observed that the agreement could be
“characterized as an implementation” of statutes authorizing DOE “to establish minimum water
flows in public waters to protect fish, game, birds or other wildlife resources, and to appropriate
water rights.” Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, 112 Wn. App. at 719. Division One ultimately
[T]he Instream Flow Agreement is not a ‘contract, or other proprietary decision in
the management of public lands or real property interests’ as that term is meant in
RCW 34.05.010(3)(c). In this case, the agency decision concerns the exercise of
regulatory power to set instream flows by rule under RCW 90.22.010 and RCW
90.54.040, or to initiate an adjudication among water right holders under RCW
90.03.110. These decisions are not proprietary management decisions concerning
the State’s public lands or real property interests, but are decisions concerning
governmental or regulatory powers. Thus, the exclusion does not apply, and the
decision is governed by the review provisions of the [APA].
Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, 112 Wn. App. at 723.
Here, RCW 82.32.350, which governs closing agreements, provides, “[DOR] may enter
into an agreement in writing with any person relating to the liability of such person in respect of
any tax imposed by any of the preceding chapters of this title for any taxable period or periods.”
Accordingly, the closing agreement between DOR and Wells Fargo was an implementation of
DOR’s regulatory authority under RCW 82.32.350 to resolve tax disputes through settlement.
Further, neither the closing agreement nor DOR’s subsequent denial of Wells Fargo’s interest
request involved “contracting or procurement of goods, services, [or] public works” or a
“contract, or other proprietary decision in the management of public lands or real property
interests.” RCW 34.05.010(3)(a), .010(3)(c). Thus, none of the exclusions applied, and the
closing agreement was an agency action the APA governed.
C. Judicial Review Exceptions
RCW 34.05.510 provides:
This chapter establishes the exclusive means of judicial review of agency action,
(1) The provisions of this chapter for judicial review do not apply to
litigation in which the sole issue is a claim for money damages or compensation
and the agency whose action is at issue does not have statutory authority to
determine the claim.
(3) To the extent that de novo review or jury trial review of agency action
is expressly authorized by provision of law.
Here, Wells Fargo’s amended complaint contained a request for a declaratory judgment.
Thus, its action did not fit within the exception for suits limited to money damages. See Judd v.
Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 152 Wn.2d 195, 204-05, 95 P.3d 337 (2004) (action did not fall within the
APA’s money damages exception because it contained a request for injunctive relief).
Moreover, when the legislature amended RCW 34.05.510 in 1988, it provided two
examples that fall within the de novo review exception of RCW 34.05.510(3): RCW 51.52.115
and RCW 82.32.180. Senate Journal, 50th Leg., Reg. Sess., at 627 (Comment 65) (Wash. 1987);
Laws of 1988, ch. 288, § 501. Both statutes expressly provide for de novo review in the
superior court following administrative review.2 In contrast, neither RCW 82.32.350 nor RCW
RCW 51.52.115 provides: “Upon appeals to the superior court only such issues of law or fact
may be raised as were properly included in the notice of appeal to the board, or in the complete
record of the proceedings before the board. The hearing in the superior court shall be de novo.”
RCW 82.32.180 provides: “The trial in the superior court on appeal shall be de novo and
without the necessity of any pleadings other than the notice of appeal.”
We further note that neither DOR nor Wells Fargo argue that RCW 82.32.180, which
allows de novo judicial review of “orders of the board of tax appeals which result from ‘informal’
proceedings” under RCW 82.32.160, applies here. Senate Journal, 50th Leg., Reg. Sess., at 627
(Comment 65) (Wash. 1987). Even if RCW 82.32.180 applied, it also possesses a 30-day filing
period; thus, as we discuss below, Wells Fargo failed to timely file its action within 30 days of
82.32.360,3 which address closing agreements, provides for de novo review in the superior court.
And Wells Fargo fails to point to any other statute expressly authorizing de novo review of
closing agreements in the superior court. Thus, its claim that closing agreements fall within RCW
34.05.510’s exceptions to the APA’s judicial review procedures such that we would review this
action de novo without reference to the APA and its procedures and standards of review, fails.
D. Final Agency Action
Wells Fargo also claims that the APA does not contain a finality requirement for judicial
review of “other” agency action under RCW 34.05.542(3) or RCW 34.05.570(4) and that the
April 15, 2008 letter denying interest in addition to the negotiated settlement of all issues relating
to these assessments was not a final agency action triggering the 30-day appeal period under the
APA. We disagree.
RCW 34.05.570(4) provides for judicial review of agency action other than agency
rulemaking or agency orders entered in adjudicative proceedings. RCW 34.05.542(3) provides:
“A petition for judicial review of agency action other than the adoption of a rule or the entry of an
order is not timely unless filed with the court . . . within thirty days after the agency action.”
DOR’s April 15, 2008 letter, its final agency action.
RCW 82.32.360 provides:
Upon approval of such agreement, evidenced by execution thereof by the [DOR]
and the person so agreeing, the agreement shall be final and conclusive as to tax
liability or tax immunity covered thereby, and, except upon a showing of fraud or
malfeasance, or of misrepresentation of a material fact: (1) The case shall not be
reopened as to the matters agreed upon, or the agreement modified, by any officer,
employee, or agent of the state, or the taxpayer, and (2) In any suit, action or
proceeding, such agreement, or any determination, assessment, collection,
payment, abatement, refund, or credit made in accordance therewith, shall not be
annulled, modified, set aside, or disregarded.
Wells Fargo correctly observes that neither RCW 34.05.570(4) nor RCW 34.05.542(3)
contains an express finality requirement for reviewing other agency action. But read together,
they require a complaining party to file its action within 30 days of the complained of agency
action. Here, that action is DOR’s refusal to pay interest in addition to the negotiated settlement
amount, which refusal was clearly communicated to Wells Fargo on April 15, 2008.
The legislature has expressly stated that the APA’s purpose is “to achieve greater
consistency with other states and the federal government in administrative procedure,” and, thus,
“courts should interpret provisions of [the APA] consistently with decisions of other courts
interpreting similar provisions of other states, the federal government, and model acts.” RCW
34.05.001. The United States Supreme Court has observed under the federal APA that “[t]he
strong presumption is that judicial review will be available only when agency action becomes
final.” Bell v. New Jersey, 461 U.S. 773, 778, 103 S. Ct. 2187, 76 L. Ed. 2d 312 (1983); see also
5 U.S.C. § 704 (“Agency action made reviewable by statute and final agency action for which
there is no other adequate remedy in a court are subject to judicial review.”).
The omission of an express statement that finality is required in RCW 34.05.542(3) and
RCW 34.05.570(4), when viewed in light of the legislature’s directive to interpret Washington’s
APA consistently with federal administrative law, is not enough to overcome the presumption that
courts may review only final agency actions. See Carolina Power & Light. Co. v. U.S. Dep’t of
Labor, 43 F.3d 912, 914 (4th Cir. 1995) (inferring finality requirement even though judicial
review statute did not expressly limit appeals to “final” orders); see also Jim Walter Res. Inc. v.
Fed. Mine Safety & Health Review Comm’n, 920 F.2d 738, 743 (11th Cir. 1990) (“Although the
statute uses the term ‘order’ rather than ‘final order,’ this omission alone is insufficient to
overcome the general presumption that judicial review of administrative actions is available only
when such decisions have become final.”); Carter/Mondale Presidential Comm’n., Inc. v. Fed.
Elections Comm’n, 711 F.2d 279, 284, n.9, 285 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (implying finality requirement
where statute permitted judicial review of “agency action” by Federal Elections Commission).
Thus, we hold that only final agency actions are subject to judicial review under RCW
34.05.542(3) and RCW 34.05.570(4).
An agency action is “‘final’” when it “imposes an obligation, denies a right, or fixes a legal
relationship as a consummation of the administrative process.” Bock v. State, 91 Wn.2d 94, 99,
586 P.2d 1173 (1978). We may look to the parties’ actions as evidence of their understanding of
agency action’s finality. See Bock, 91 Wn.2d at 99. Here, DOR’s April 15 letter stated that
closing agreements do not automatically include interest and that the closing agreement was final
and conclusive; thus, the letter was a denial of Wells Fargo’s alleged right to interest on the
refund. The letter’s statement, “I hope this clarifies why the payment made constituted the total
settlement amount. Please contact me . . . if you require additional information,” was at most an
offer to further explain “why the payment made constituted the total settlement amount.” CP at
Wells Fargo’s tax counsel stated that he understood from DOR’s April 15 letter that DOR
did not intend to take any further action regarding Wells Fargo’s interest claim; and Wells Fargo’s
September 22 demand letter referred to DOR’s letter as “rejecting” its interest claim. CP at 992.
Thus, Wells Fargo’s actions demonstrated its understanding that DOR’s April 15 letter was a final
rejection of Wells Fargo’s interest claim.
Wells Fargo, citing Valley View Indus. Park v. City of Redmond, 107 Wn.2d 621, 733
P.2d 182 (1987), argues that DOR’s subsequent settlement negotiations and offers of settlement
in the months following its April 15 letter demonstrate that its April 15 letter was not a final
rejection of Wells Fargo’s claims. But in Valley View, our Supreme Court held that the City’s
letter stating that Valley View’s building permits had lapsed was not a “final” order because (1)
“the City lacked a clear administrative decision-making process regarding building permit lapses”
and (2) after the City sent the letter, it “twice assured Valley View that it still had vested rights in
the buildings.” 107 Wn.2d at 634-35. In contrast, here DOR’s April 15 letter clearly stated that
the closing agreement constituted a final settlement of Wells Fargo’s claims, including interest,
and DOR’s subsequent communications constituted settlement negotiations regarding Wells
Fargo’s interest demand, not acknowledgements that Wells Fargo had any right to interest.
Finally, RCW 34.05.060 provides: “Except to the extent precluded by another provision
of law and subject to approval by agency order, informal settlement of matters that may make
unnecessary more elaborate proceedings under this chapter is strongly encouraged.” If we were
to hold that DOR’s later attempts to settle the interest issue negated the finality of its action, we
would undermine the legislature’s express policy favoring resolution of disputes outside the
APA’s judicial review provisions. Thus, DOR’s settlement discussions five months after its denial
of Wells Fargo’s interest request do not negate the finality of its rejection of the interest claim.
II. APA Procedures Control Challenges to Agency Action
Wells Fargo also argues that, even if the APA applied to its challenge, its claim was a
common law contract claim against the State over which the superior court could properly
exercise its original jurisdiction under RCW 4.92.010 and RCW 2.08.010. We disagree.
A. RCW 4.92.010
RCW 4.92.010 provides: “Any person or corporation having any claim against the state
of Washington shall have a right of action against the state in the superior court.” RCW 4.92.010
confers subject matter jurisdiction on superior courts to hear claims against the State. J.A. v.
State, 120 Wn. App. 654, 658, 86 P.3d 202 (2004).
Through RCW 4.92.010, “the State has waived its sovereign immunity from lawsuits of
various types.” Architectural Woods, Inc. v. State, 92 Wn.2d 521, 527, 598 P.2d 1372 (1979).4
Because RCW 4.92.010 created the right to sue the State, it is not a fundamental right; thus,
because the State gave the right to sue it, the State can prescribe limitations on that right. See
Medina v. Pub. Util. Dist. No. 1., 147 Wn.2d 303, 312, 53 P.3d 993 (2002). Moreover, “where
one statute deals with a subject in general terms and another deals with the same subject in a more
detailed way, the two should be harmonized if possible and, if there is any conflict, the specific
prevails over the general absent a contrary legislative intent.” Cingular Wireless, LLC v.
Wells Fargo cites Architectural Woods and Riley Pleas, Inc. v. State, 88 Wn.2d 933, 568 P.2d
780 (1977), to support its claim that its action was not subject exclusively to the APA’s
procedural requirements. But both cases were decided before the legislature amended the APA to
establish it as the “the exclusive means of judicial review of agency action.” Laws of 1988, ch.
288, § 501. To the extent, if any, that they conflict with the APA’s current provisions, they are
no longer good law.
Thurston County, 131 Wn. App. 756, 774, 129 P.3d 300 (2006).
Here, the legislature created a general right to sue the State under RCW 4.92.010. But it
specifically set limitations on challenges to state agency actions, expressly stating its intent that
the APA “establishe[d] the exclusive means of judicial review of agency action.” RCW
34.05.510. Harmonizing RCW 4.92.010 and the APA, the legislature intended to limit legal
claims involving agency actions to the APA’s procedures. To the extent RCW 4.92.010 and the
APA conflict, the APA’s specific procedures control.
B. RCW 2.08.010
RCW 2.08.010 implemented article IV, section 65 of our state constitution and provides:
The superior court shall have original jurisdiction in all cases in equity, and in all
cases at law which involve the title or possession of real property, or the legality of
any tax, impost, assessment, toll or municipal fine, and in all other cases in
which the demand or the value of the property in controversy amounts to three
City of Tacoma v. Mary Kay, Inc., 117 Wn. App. 111, 114-15, 70 P.3d 144 (2003). Accordingly,
RCW 2.08.010 confers on the superior courts original subject matter jurisdiction over the stated
types of claims. Those claims do not include the superior court’s original appellate jurisdiction in
Article IV, section 6 provides:
The superior court shall have original jurisdiction in all cases at law which involve
the title or possession of real property, or the legality of any tax, impost,
assessment, toll, or municipal fine, and in all other cases in which the demand or
the value of the property in controversy amounts to three thousand dollars or as
otherwise determined by law, or a lesser sum in excess of the jurisdiction granted
to justices of the peace and other inferior courts.
Dictionaries define “impost” as “[a] tax or duty, esp. a customs duty” or “something that is
imposed or levied.” Black’s Law Dictionary 824 (9th ed. 2009); Webster's Third New
International Dictionary 1136 (2002).
cases originating in agency actions governed by the APA.
In James v. Kitsap County, our Supreme Court addressed the relationship between
original jurisdiction and specific statutory procedures for bringing claims. 154 Wn.2d 574, 58789, 115 P.3d 286 (2005). Developers argued that their challenges to Kitsap County’s imposition
of impact fees as a condition for issuance of building permits were not subject to the 21-day time
limitation of chapter 36.70C RCW, the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA), because the superior
court had original jurisdiction under article IV, section 6. James, 154 Wn.2d at 587. The
developers further argued that, because the superior court had original jurisdiction, their
challenges were subject to more general procedural requirements, including a three-year statute of
limitations, and not LUPA’s requirements. James, 154 Wn.2d at 587.
Our Supreme Court disagreed. James, 154 Wn.2d at 587. It observed that LUPA by its
own terms was “the exclusive means of judicial review of land use decisions . . . .” James, 154
Wn.2d at 587 (alteration in original) (emphasis omitted) (quoting RCW 36.70C.030(1)). The
Court further observed that “where statutes prescribe procedures for the resolution of a particular
type of dispute, state courts have required substantial compliance or satisfaction of the spirit of
the procedural requirements before they will exercise jurisdiction over the matter.” James, 154
Wn.2d at 588. Finally, the Court concluded:
[W]hile a superior court may be granted power to hear a case under article IV,
section 6, that grant does not obviate procedural requirements established by the
legislature. Article IV, section 6 pertains to both original trial jurisdiction and
original appellate jurisdiction. Here, a LUPA action may invoke the original
appellate jurisdiction of the superior court, but congruent with the explicit
objectives of the legislature in enacting LUPA, parties must substantially comply
with procedural requirements before a superior court will exercise its original
James, 154 Wn.2d at 588-89.
RCW 2.08.010 mirrors and implements article IV, section 6. And like LUPA, the APA
provides “the exclusive means of judicial review of agency action.” RCW 34.05.510.
Accordingly, before a challenge to agency action may invoke the superior court’s original
appellate jurisdiction, parties must substantially comply with the APA’s procedural requirements.
Wells Fargo has not done so.
DOR’s denial of Wells Fargo’s demand that DOR pay interest on the settlement amount
was neither agency rulemaking nor an order entered in an adjudicative proceeding; thus, it was
“other agency action” falling under RCW 34.05.570(4).7 RCW 34.05.542(3) provides:
A petition for judicial review of agency action other than the adoption of a rule or
the entry of an order is not timely unless filed with the court and served on the
agency, the office of the attorney general, and all other parties of record within
thirty days after the agency action, but the time is extended during any period that
the petitioner did not know and was under no duty to discover or could not
reasonably have discovered that the agency had taken the action or that the agency
action had a sufficient effect to confer standing upon the petitioner to obtain
judicial review under this chapter.
When presented with whether untimely service can constitute substantial compliance with
a statute of limitations, our Supreme Court compared the situation to substantial compliance by
timely but procedurally defective service. City of Seattle v. Pub. Emp’t Relations Comm’n, 116
Wells Fargo contends that RCW 34.05.570(4)’s procedures would be “ill-suited” for review of
its interest claim. Reply Br. of Appellant at 7. But RCW 34.05.570(4)(b) permits the trial court
to admit new evidence on material issues of fact under RCW 34.05.562; and RCW
34.05.570(4)(c)(ii) and RCW 34.05.570(4)(c)(iii) allow the trial court to grant relief to a party if
the agency action was “[o]utside the statutory authority of the agency” or “[a]rbitrary or
capricious.” Thus, the trial court could have admitted any necessary evidence to determine
material facts regarding the interest claim and could have set aside DOR’s refusal to pay interest
as outside its statutory authority or arbitrary or capricious. Wells Fargo’s argument that RCW
34.05.570(4) does not apply fails.
Wn.2d 923, 927-29, 809 P.2d 1377 (1991). It held:
It is impossible to substantially comply with a statutory time limit in the
same way [as effectuating timely but procedurally defective service]. It is either
complied with or it is not. Service after the time limit cannot be considered to
have been actual service within the time limit. We therefore hold that failure to
comply with a statutorily set time limitation cannot be considered substantial
compliance with that statute.
Pub. Emp’t Relations Comm’n, 116 Wn.2d at 928-29.
RCW 34.05.530 provides:
A person has standing to obtain judicial review of agency action if that person is
aggrieved or adversely affected by the agency action. A person is aggrieved or
adversely affected within the meaning of this section only when all three of the
following conditions are present:
(1) The agency action has prejudiced or is likely to prejudice that person;
(2) That person’s asserted interests are among those that the agency was
required to consider when it engaged in the agency action challenged; and
(3) A judgment in favor of that person would substantially eliminate or
redress the prejudice to that person caused or likely to be caused by the agency
Here, on receipt of the April 15, 2008 letter, Wells Fargo knew that DOR rejected paying
interest on its refund. Furthermore, the three RCW 34.05.530 conditions were met at that time:
Wells Fargo was prejudiced by DOR’s denial of its interest request, its asserted interests were
considered when DOR rejected Wells Fargo’s request, and a judgment in Wells Fargo’s favor
would have redressed the prejudice caused to it by DOR’s denial of its interest request.
Accordingly, the 30-day period for challenging DOR’s denial of Wells Fargo’s interest request
began running when DOR rejected the claim in the April 15 letter.
Because Wells Fargo did not file or serve this action until January 22, 2009, over nine
months after DOR’s April 15 decision, we cannot consider Wells Fargo’s failure to comply with
the APA’s 30-day filing period as substantial compliance with the statute’s procedural
requirements.8 Thus, the superior court could not exercise original appellate jurisdiction over the
matter. James, 154 Wn.2d at 589. Accordingly, the superior court erred in denying DOR’s
motion to dismiss based on Wells Fargo’s failure to timely file its appeal under the APA. We
reverse and remand for entry of an order dismissing the case. Because we dismiss based on Wells
Fargo’s untimely appeal, we do not address Wells Fargo’s other challenges on appeal.
VAN DEREN, J.
Wells Fargo also argues that DOR’s settlement discussions after it received Wells Fargo’s
September 22, 2008 demand letter equitably estopped DOR from claiming that Wells Fargo
untimely filed this action. Equitable estoppel may apply where a party detrimentally relies on an
admission, statement, or act by another party. Campbell & Gwinn, 146 Wn.2d at 19. Here,
Wells Fargo could not have detrimentally relied on actions occurring over five months later when
it had failed to file its action within 30 days of DOR’s April 15 letter.