Does a single production constitute production on an installment basis and trigger the PRA’s statute of limitations? Divisions I and II of the Washington Court of Appeals disagree.
In Bartz v. Department of Corrections, Division II of the Court of Appeals held that the PRA’s one-year statute of limitations runs even if the agency delivers only one production. In other words, a single production also means “the last production… on a partial or installment basis.” A plain reading of the statute might suggest otherwise. “Actions under this section must be filed within one year of the agency’s claim of exemption or the last production of a record on a partial or installment basis.” RCW 42.56.550(6).
Division II reasoned that a literal reading would lead to an absurd result, namely: “a more lenient statute of limitations for one category of PRA requests” after the Legislature shortened the statute from five years to one in 2005.
Yet, Division I concluded just that. In Tobin v. Worden, 156 Wn. App. 507 (2010), Division I held that the one-year statute does not apply unless the agency claims an exemption or produces records on installment. There, the agency did not claim an exemption and produced only a single document. Because a single production could not be an installment, Division I concluded that the statute did not apply.