Betts Patterson Mines

Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofit organizations such as foundations, religious institutions and homeowners’ associations face a myriad of unique legal challenges.  These organizations and their volunteer staff are frequently not familiar with the numerous complex legal requirements which govern their organizations.  These cases are complex, emotional and require close coordination with the board and involved members to come up with creative solutions. 

We have been privileged to represent numerous foundations in employment claims, governance disputes and other lawsuits challenging leadership actions.  Our defense of homeowners’ associations includes cases ranging from allegations of board malpractice, failure to disclose required information in unit sales, violations of view protection covenants, discrimination, and violations of the covenants and other governing documents.  Our defense of religious institutions includes claims of sexual abuse, injuries sustained on Church property, employment practices, and challenges to Church leadership. 

Representative Cases

  • Represented the YMCA in litigation alleging negligence arising out of the improper supervision of exercise activities by plaintiff.  The jury returned a defense verdict.
  • Represented a homeowners' association in a Fair Housing Act (FHA) / Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) case.  Successfully moved the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse injunctive relief which could have ended the 58 year history of Ryderwood, Washington as a 55 and older community. The decision holds, for the first time, that retiree communities are exempt from the Fair Housing Act's family status protections provided they show present compliance with the three criteria of the Housing for Older Person's Act (HOPA). Balvage v. Ryderwood Improvement and Service Association, 642 F.3d 765 (2011)
  • Defended an Association of apartment owners in a lawsuit filed by two homeowners against their upstairs neighbors as well as the Association for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and discrimination.  Plaintiffs' lawsuit arose out of a substantial remodeling project undertaken by their upstairs neighbors.  Plaintiffs alleged that the remodeling project caused damage to their unit and violated City and Building Codes.  Plaintiffs alleged that the Association breached the Declaration by approving the project, breached its fiduciary duty by failing to manage the project and mitigate its impact upon plaintiffs, and discriminated against plaintiffs by allowing the project to go forward,  the Association prevailed after a bench trial that spanned three weeks.  The Court found that the Association acted reasonably in approving and managing the remodeling project, and ruled against plaintiffs on all of their claims.
  • Obtained a defense verdict for a Church in a premises liability case involving a tree that fell on a member’s vehicle as they were parking on the Church lot.
  • Defended a Church leader in a claim by a dissident group that she was not the rightful successor to the leadership of that church.  The case was dismissed by summary Judgment which was upheld on appeal.  Rentz v. Werner, 156 Wn. App. 423 (2010)
  • Defended a Church in a lawsuit brought by a member challenging the sale of Church property as violating restrictions in the original deed transferring title to the church.  The case was dismissed by summary judgment and upheld by the state Supreme Court.  Nieman v. Vaughn Community Church, 154 Wn.2d (2005)
  • Defended a religious brotherhood in some 60 sexual abuse claims from 1939 through the 1970’s arising out an orphanage and a school. We successfully litigated to mitigate the claimed damages through extensive motion practice, intensive investigation efforts, and aggressive deposition practice, including fending off a potentially explosive punitive damages motion which was based on alleged out of state acts undertaken by our client.