Advice to Plaintiffs
Earlier this month NPR reported on the spike in bicycle deaths as more adults opt for two wheels instead of four. Just like many of our cyclist clients, adults want to adopt healthier routines to get around town. But unfortunately, the healthier commuting choice more frequently translates to visits to the hospital
According to the report (citing a study in a recent Journal of the American Medical Association), bike injuries more than doubled between 1998-2013. The age group affected the most is those 45 years old or older.
Why? Simple: More people riding bikes means more cyclists in catastrophic or fatal accidents.
On the flip side, perhaps a more comforting statistic (published last month in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report per NPR), indicated that the number of deaths among child cyclists have plunged. Nonetheless, the same report notes that deaths have tripled among cyclists ages 35 to 54..
With the spike of older age cyclists (in their 50s-60s) who are riding the roads at high speeds, serious bicycle accidents are more likely. A 60 year old does not recover from bicycle accidents the same way a 30 year old does.
So, kudos to you if you want to adopt a healthy commuting lifestyle. But please remember to take it a little slower in congested areas. Wearing a helmet, visible gear, and lights all help others see that you’re there sharing the road.
Maybe owners of Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram are just too busy or don’t care if they might lose control over their steering or have a defective rear axle. But their problem is exponentially greater because tens of thousands of owners have not responded to recall notices to fix their vehicles for faulty steering and/or suspension parts. It hasn’t helped that Fiat Chrysler dragged their feet in issuing recalls of over 11 million cars and trucks. Thus, this past July, Fiat Chrysler agreed to pay a record $105 million penalty and to take steps following a government investigation of the company’s handling of 23 recalls involving the >11 million vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded that consumers be able to sell their vehicles back to the company if repairs haven’t been completed. Fiat Chrysler has estimated that more than 60 percent of the estimated 500,000 vehicles have already been repaired, leaving them ineligible for a buy back.
Owners of the 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty who hadn’t taken their SUVs in for recall repairs for a faulty gas tank by July 24 are eligible for a $1,000 credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new Fiat Chrysler car or truck at a dealership. Owners who want to keep their vehicles get a $100 prepaid credit card after their repairs are complete.
Some of the $105 million penalty levied against Fiat Chrysler will go to offering buybacks, trade-in incentives or even cash to some drivers affected by the recalls. The company agreed to make all of these deals available in the next few weeks.
If you drive one of several Ram pickup models, or a 2009 Dodge Durango, a 2009-2011 Dodge Dakota or a 2009 Chrysler Aspen, your car qualifies for a buyback if it hasn’t been fixed yet. Eligible Ram pickups include the 1500 from model years 2008-2009 and the 2500, 3500, 4500 and 5500 from model years 2008-2012. Chrysler said that there are less than 200,000 of these vehicles on the roads.
Why Fiat Chrysler got in trouble: Those models were recalled two years ago for steering issues or loose rear axles. Either problem could cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. To make matters worse, Chrysler didn’t make enough replacement parts or failed to provide “effective” parts after the initial recall, said Gordon Trowbridge, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Other Ram pickups have also been recalled for steering issues, but Trowbridge said that many more of those vehicles were fixed, so they’re not included in this program.
Solution: Whether you bought your vehicle new or used, bring it into a dealer. They’re required to buy the car back from you at “fair market value,” and to throw in a 10% premium. You can walk away with the all that money in cash, or use the money toward purchasing a new vehicle.
“Fair market value” is the original sticker price of the vehicle minus depreciation. The dealer will negotiate that value with you when you take it in. Check Kelly Blue Book or another used-car value benchmark to see what yours is potentially worth.
Who is eligible for a trade-in bonus
Older Jeep Grand Cherokee models are eligible for a trade in at above-market value. If you have a 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee and you haven’t fixed the fuel tank problem it was recalled for, Fiat Chrysler is required to let you trade in your vehicle and give you a $1,000 credit. These Jeeps were recalled back in 2013 for fuel tanks that can leak after a rear-end collision. That issue has been linked to more than 75 deaths.
The fix: Take your SUV to a dealer and trade your Grand Cherokee in for a new car. The trade-in price will again be for “fair market value,” and the $1,000 can only be used toward purchasing another Fiat Chrysler vehicle or dealer parts and services. If you’d rather keep your Grand Cherokee, Fiat Chrysler must give you a $100 gift card (that you can use anywhere) when you take your SUV in to be fixed.
Who is eligible for a $100 gift card: Some Jeep owners can take their car in for a fix and get a $100 gift card. You can also get a $100 gift card for bringing in a 1999-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee or a 2002-2007 Jeep Liberty for a fix. Those vehicles also had concerns about faulty fuel tanks and were involved in recalls or “safety campaigns” by Fiat Chrysler. Solution: Take your SUV to a dealer, have your vehicle fixed or inspected, and get a $100 gift card that you can spend anywhere.
It’s summer, which means many of us are opting to find creative, less expensive ways to get to the airport. Personally, I’m in the minority among my friends when it comes to ride-hailing services like Uber. Why? I know too much about the insurance pitfalls, and can’t help but think about what might happen in the off chance that me or my family member might get injured as an Uber passenger.
Several days ago at a friend’s BBQ, I ran into one of my favorite neighbors who told me not to hug her too hard because she was involved in a horrible car accident with an Uber driver. When I asked her who was going to help her pay her medical bills, her response: “Good question. We’re still trying to figure that one out.”
This is one of the many problems that I have with ride-hailing services: They’re trying to have their cake and eat it too. Why is it that they have escaped regulations and yet can exploit loopholes by calling themselves an “app” provider? They are quasi-taxi services, that have somehow figured out how to avoid the massive fees like medallions that hard-working taxi-drivers must deal with. Despite the many headlines that keep popping up about Uber tragedies, where lack of insurance persists as a critical issue, people are willing to turn a blind eye because they think they’re saving money.
True: In California, Washington and other states, we are seeing more laws pass to address the insurance coverage gap. Thank goodness. But this still doesn’t make things as straightforward as if you were injured in a taxi or your friend’s car. Many Uber drivers have still not disclosed to their insurance companies that they derive some of their income as ride-hailing drivers. Ooops. What do you think their insurers will say, when they find out after their insured gets into an accident with some injured passengers?
Is it worth it, if you find yourself in an accident as an Uber passenger or in a car that an Uber driver hits while it’s carrying Uber passengers? Think long and hard the next time you want to use that clever app. Please.
KING5 News reported on SKW’s lawsuit just filed against Boeing for the wrongful death of Ken Otto and for a flawed airbag system. The story provided high level details about how father, wife, and brother, Ken Otto, was robbed of his life when he chose to work on the seat belt airbag systems on a set of Boeing plans.
While working with an assistant in tight quarters on a plane, the airbag deployed without warning and tore off half of Ken Otto’s face. Within several weeks, he died, leaving behind a tortured and grief stricken family.
The family will have to deal with this enormous void in their lives as well as the knowledge that Ken suffered excruciating pain and suffering after a preventable incident inside a Boeing 777.
If you have followed the work of Public Justice and its team of attorneys (including SKW attorney Brad Moore), you likely saw the news story this weekend about an important ruling that will improve the lives and public safety of the residents in the Yakima Valley.
Cow Palace, among a handful of other industrial dairy farms, have produced tons and tons of manure, calling it “nutrients” and selling it as fertilizer or letting it sit in miles of unlined lagoons. The massive amounts of manure inevitably leeched into the earth, causing an array of serious health problems for residents within miles of any of these farms.
But finally, the work of attorneys Charlie Tebbutt, Brad Moore, and Jessica Culpepper (among a larger legal team) has convinced U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice to call a spade a spade, redefining “nutrients” as “solid waste.”
“The cow waste is leeching nitrates into groundwater, posing “an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health,” according to the ruling. Bravo to Charlie Tebbutt, Brad Moore and the entire Public Justice team that has worked tirelessly on fighting for the rights of Yakima Valley residents.
This summer is looking like it’s going to be a hot and dry one in the Pacific Northwest. Boating and aquatic sports enthusiasts are planning their trips already. Many of you might have plans to buy a jet ski to add to your list of summer toys. However, as our clients have learned the hard way, it’s important to take some extra time to research the jet ski that you’re eyeing. Recalls involving dangerous problems with specific makes and models of jet skis are often under the radar as these don’t make the headlines. News reporters are more focused on the massive recalls, such as the history-making Takata airbag recall.
But remember that these recalls involving popular lust-worthy jet skis, such as the 2015 Sea Doo Spark 2up can and have caused serious injuries. Sadly, we have seen this up close.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 206.448.1777 if you believe that your jet ski injury is the result of a recall that your dealer failed to inform you about.
In today’s The Guardian, injured worker Rosa Moreno shared how she lost both of her hands as an LG television machine worker.
Her evoked such strong reactions–outraging and saddening readers who had no idea of the wrongs inflicted on underpaid workers. The entire firm of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan is proud of Public Justice’s work effort to help Rosa’s story get the attention that it deserves. Public Justice is the country’s largest public interest law firm with the mission of protecting consumers. Rosa Moreno was just selected the recipient for Public Justice’s “2015 Illuminating Injustices” award of $25,000. The award helps shine a light on an injury victim who has suffered significant injury but suffered additional injustice with only obtaining partial recovery.
Below is an excerpt of Rosa’s story:
On February 11, 2011, I lost both my hands.
I was working an overnight shift at my job in Reynosa, Mexico, where I was cutting metal for parts used in assembling flatscreen televisions. I was working in my usual area, and the boss was pressuring us.
“I want you to work faster, because we need the material urgently,” he said.
I was moved to Machine 19, which can rip and cut metal and takes two hands to operate. It is heavy, weighing at least one ton, maybe two, and no one liked to work on it because it was too difficult. They always seemed to assign it to me.
I started work at 11pm. Around 2 or 2:30am, I was positioning metal inside Machine 19. My hands were actually inside the machine, because I had to push the metal in until it clicked into place.
That’s when the machine fell on top of them.
I screamed. Everyone around me was crying and yelling. They stopped the assembly line on the female side of the room, but the men were told to keep working.
Meanwhile, I was stuck. No one could lift the machine off my hands. They remained trapped for 10 minutes, crushed under the machine.
Finally, a few fellow employees created a makeshift jack to lift the machine up just enough for me to pull my hands out. I wasn’t bleeding very much, because the machine actually sealed the ends of my arms and forged them to the piece of metal. They took me to the hospital with the piece attached to my hands. The doctors were surprised when I showed up like that. I remember saying, ‘Take the piece off. Take it off.’ But they didn’t want to.”
My hands were flattened like tortillas, mangled, and they both had to be amputated. I lost my right hand up to my wrist and my left a little higher. I didn’t know how I’d ever work again.
Immediately, I started to worry about my children. I have six children at home, who were between the ages of 9 and 17 during the accident, and I am both mother and father to them. How would I take care of them now?
Working six days a week, I made 5,200 pesos a month ($400). Without my hands, I knew I wouldn’t even be able to make that much.
After five days in the hospital, I checked myself out. But I didn’t go home first. I went directly to the factory where I worked for HD Electronics. I asked to see the manager. He offered me 50,000 pesos ($3,800).
“I’ve lost both my hands,” I said. “How will my family survive on 50,000 pesos?”
“That’s our offer,” he said. “Stop making such a big scandal about it and take it.” I eventually got about $14,400 in settlement money under Mexican labor law, an amount equal to 75% of two years’ wages for each hand. But I knew I had to do better for my family. So I looked across the border, to Texas, where my former employer is based.
I found a lawyer with a nice office in a good part of town. I was sure he would help me. Instead, he said, “Go up to the international bridge and put a cup out and people will help you.”
I was devastated.
That’s when I decided to tell my story on television. That led me to Ed Krueger, a retired minister who vowed to find me the right lawyer. That lawyer was Scott Hendler at the law firm Hendler Lyons Flores, in Austin, Texas. Even though I could not pay, he helped me file a lawsuit against LG Electronics, which contracted with the factory where I worked. Finally, about 18 months after the accident, I had hope.
Then the judge in my case threw out the lawsuit on a technicality, saying LG had not been properly notified. I wasn’t even given a chance to respond.
It’s been four years since I lost my hands. I have trouble paying my mortgage, and I wonder: Was that first lawyer right? Will I end up on a bridge, holding a cup out in front of me?
If you are so moved, please consider donating to Ms. Moreno via www.documentaryphotographs.com/rosamoreno1.html
This is photographer Alan Pogue’s explanation of his beautiful portraits of Rosa: I have worked with Ed Krueger for more than 20 years. He is the founder of the Comite de Apoyo, for Mexican women workers who teach other workers their rights under Mexican labor law and how to organize to obtain those rights. He is on Facebook, only because someone helped him since he is clueless about the internet. Ed and the Comite are also a worthy cause and without him I would not have met Rosa. I accept money for Rosa and the Comite because Ed has no website or PayPal. He does what he does, driving up and down the Rio Grade teaching workers, mostly women, their rights. He is a saint who knows nothing about PR or the web. I charge nothing or helping Ed, the Comite and Rosa. No administrative cost, no gas money for driving back and forth to the Valley. I stay with Ed when I drive down so there are no hotel costs. Simple and direct. This is what I expect form others.
Note: SKW partner Brad J. Moore Seattle, Public Justice President Elect/Consumer Protection Attorney is incoming president of the Public Justice Foundation, who is instrumental as a leader in this organization devoted to protecting individuals, consumer rights, the environment. Like SKW, Public Justice wants to challenge the most powerful organizations to do the right thing and to hold them accountable when they make choices in favor of profit over the consumer’s/worker’s well being.
We are actively investigating a class action on behalf of all Washington State consumers who have received notification about their information affected as the result of the Anthem’s 2014 data breach. SKW Seattle Data Breach/Class Action attorneys were provided with information that links Washington residents who were Anthem insureds directly with instances of tax fraud and other attempts of identity theft.
As NY Times recently reported, over 200,000 attempts to view the past returns using stolen information were made from February of this year to mid-May. What’s scarier: about half of the attempts were successful. According to a data security expert and consultant who is a source close to the SKW law firm, there is a direct connection with the Anthem data breach and fraudulent tax returns in Washington state. More to come in future posts.
If you were a Washington state resident insured with Anthem or Apple Health (Washington State Medicaid provider) and have experienced identity theft, please contact Catherine@Stritmatter.com.
Born with a severe hearing disability, Jose Garcia and his family thought he would graduate in 2010 with the rest of his class from Grandview High School. But that year, when his mother, Maria, thought he was going to graduate, the ugly truth reared its head: Grandview School District had neglected to address his hearing problem. Instead, the district left him in a special needs class, so that 17 year old Jose was reading at a second-grade level and had the math skills of a third-grader. Without any warning, he was deemed unready to receive his high school diploma.
The case began in 2010, when Garcia’s mother learned that her son would not graduate with the other 17 year old students at his school. She filed a complaint with the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction against the school district, and the matter was referred to an administrative law judge. The judge, Matthew Wacker of Seattle, ruled in favor of Garcia, ordering the district to provide him with six years of private education after finding that the district had given Garcia work below his grade level rather than adequately addressing his hearing problem. The ruling included a $1,000,000 verdict for Jose.
The district appealed Wacker’s decision in Yakima County Superior Court, where Judge Robert Lawrence-Berry mostly upheld the ruling, but reduced from six to four the number of years the district would have to provide Garcia with private education.
Four years later, Jose is set to graduate at age 22. He now plans to get a technical degree to work as an electrician.
SKW attorney and partner, Karen Koehler, and Richland, WA attorney Kerri Feeney represented Jose Garcia against the school district.