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In the landmark case of Stout v. Johnson, the legal community witnessed a significant examination of liability in the context of bail bond recovery operations. This case unfolded as Larry Stout appealed the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Clarence and Sally Doe Johnson, operators of “CJ” Johnson Bail Bonds, effectively dismissing them from Stout’s lawsuit for damages arising from injuries Stout incurred during a bail bond recovery operation.

Background and Facts

Larry Stout had engaged the services of CJ Johnson Bail Bonds for a $50,000 bail bond in connection with a felony drug charge in Pierce County. After failing to appear in court, Johnson hired James Michael Golden, an independent contractor who further subcontracted Carl Warren for Stout’s apprehension. The recovery operation led to Stout sustaining severe injuries, culminating in the amputation of his leg, after an alleged vehicle collision initiated by the recovery team.

Stout sued Johnson for damages, attributing liability to them for Warren’s actions, under the assertion that bail bond recovery constituted an “inherently dangerous occupation.” The trial court, however, dismissed Johnson from the lawsuit, aligning with the defense’s argument that the activity’s inherent danger did not extend liability to Johnson for the independent contractor’s actions. Stout’s appeal centered on challenging this conclusion, emphasizing the perceived dangerous nature of bail bond recovery.

Court’s Analysis and Conclusion

The appellate court meticulously analyzed whether bail bond recovery could be considered an inherently dangerous activity that would necessitate Johnson’s liability for their independent contractor’s conduct. The court ultimately determined that the inherently dangerous activity exception aims to protect innocent third parties, not individuals like Stout, who knowingly engage and participate in the bail bond recovery process.

The court noted that Stout had not only triggered the recovery operation by his actions (failing to appear in court) but was also aware of the risks associated with such operations. Given these circumstances, Stout did not qualify for protection under the inherently dangerous activity exception, leading to the affirmation of the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Johnson.

Stout v. Johnson serves as a pivotal case in understanding the boundaries of liability concerning bail bond recovery operations. It highlights the nuanced distinctions in legal responsibility and the conditions under which the inherently dangerous activity exception applies. For legal professionals and entities engaged in bail bond services, this case underscores the importance of clearly defining the roles and liabilities associated with independent contractors.

Moreover, the case reiterates the principle that individuals who knowingly participate in activities posing risks cannot seek damages under the inherently dangerous activity exception, which is designed primarily to safeguard innocent bystanders.

This analysis of Stout v. Johnson offers crucial insights into the complexities of liability within the criminal justice system, particularly in the realm of bail bond recovery. It reinforces the legal framework governing the relationships between bail bond agencies, their contractors, and the defendants they seek to apprehend.

You can read the Text of this case,Understanding the Stout v. Johnson Case 159 Wn. App. 344 (Wash. Ct. App. 2011), here:

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We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us