December 18, 2023

Appellate Court Rules in Favor of Pacifica Client UW in Real Estate Development Lawsuit

A Washington State appellate court ruled in favor of Pacifica Law Group client the University of Washington (UW) earlier this month when it upheld a superior court’s dismissal of claims brought against UW by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (ARE), a real estate developer that failed in its bid to win a contract to develop a new building for UW.

The decision by the Washington State Court of Appeals, Division II, upheld Thurston County Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy’s decision to dismiss the claims against UW, which attempted to derail plans to develop a new building in the Portage Bay Crossing neighborhood of its West campus.

ARE filed suit in June 2021 after UW selected another developer, Wexford Science + Technology (Wexford), for the development, which will be completed using a ground-lease and partial leaseback transaction. Under this arrangement, UW will ground lease land to Wexford; Wexford will finance, construct, and operate a facility on the site at its own risk and cost; and UW and other private and public sector tenants will lease space in the completed building. The building and its tenants will have a common focus on clean energy science and technologies and other innovations for a sustainable future.

ARE alleged that UW lacked the authority to enter into the lease-based transaction; that it did not use a required competitive bidding procedure to select a developer; and that its selection process was “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Superior Court dismissed ARE’s first two claims on summary judgment, and dismissed ARE’s “arbitrary and capricious” claim after a week-long trial in early 2023. The Court of Appeals affirmed those decisions in full. ARE said it intends to petition the Washington Supreme Court for review of the Court of Appeals’ decision.

Pacifica Law Group attorneys have represented UW throughout the litigation process. Zak Tomlinson successfully defended UW in superior court, and Paul Lawrence led an appellate team that included associate attorney Scott Ferron.