Advice to Plaintiffs

Weighing the Pros/Cons of Uber and Lyft

UBER PDX

On January 13, 2015, around 70 of Portland’s 460 Taxi cabs protested fair taxi laws by parking in Pioneer square. Organizers want city leaders to make ride-sharing companies play by the same rules as cabs and Town cars.(Photo: Aaron Parecki)

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.

 

 

Wrongful Death Lawsuit against Boeing Over Faulty Airbags

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.

Ken Otto

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.

Judge’s Latest Ruling Will Improve Yakima Residents’ Water Quality

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.

 

 

Remember to Research Any Recalls Before Buying that Jet Ski!

Take the recalls seriously, before you decide to buy that Jet Ski (pictured: 2015 Sea Doo Spark 2up/Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)

Take the recalls seriously, before you decide to buy that Jet Ski (pictured: 2015 Sea Doo Spark 2up/Photo: Loz Blain/Gizmag.com)

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 counsel@stritmatter.com 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.

Public Justice recognizes injured worker who lost both hands

Rosa Moreno hasn’t been able to afford prosthetic hands

Rosa Moreno hasn’t been able to afford prosthetic hands

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.

rosa signing
Moreno uses her forearms to sign her lawyer’s contract. Photograph: Alan Pogue/Texas Centre for Documentary Photography

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.

Tax Fraud Alert to WA State Medicaid and Other WA Consumers insured with Anthem

Anthem data breach has resulted in successful attempts at tax fraud and other id theft

Anthem data breach has resulted in successful attempts at tax fraud and other id theft

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.

School’s failure to teach hearing impaired results in $1 million for student

Jose Garcia is finally set to graduate after a victorious legal battle with Grandview School District,  He was awarded $1 million after the court decided the his school had neglected to address his hearing disability. (Photo: Yakima Herald)

Jose Garcia is finally set to graduate after a victorious legal battle with Grandview School District, He was awarded $1 million after the court decided the his school had neglected to address his hearing disability. (Photo: Yakima Herald)

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.

Takata airbag recall makes history

The latest number is ~34 million vehicles that are now included in the Takata airbag recall. This means 1 out of every 5 cars likely has a dangerous airbag or some other defective part (see below). Our Seattle auto product liability lawyers have handled many product liability cases–including with defective airbags. With this latest recall, the landscape of auto product recalls shifts dramatically. While the GM faulty ignition switch recall made history earlier this year at roughly 2.6 million recalls issued, the Takata recall reaches across company lines and includes 11 different auto makers. While the number of stories relating to the defective airbags is not large (under 10, compared to the 100+ deaths for the GM recall), any one who rides in a car or truck should not rest easy.

Apparently, many of you were alarmed enough today. There were droves (no pun intended) of concerned car owners who tried to visit NHTSA website for information, but the site has crashed a number of times today. Remember that the database is still not entirely updated on the NHTSA site, as it will take a few days. When you are ready to check it out, remember to jot down your VIN number.

If you or a family member was injured or killed due to a defective airbag, please contact us at Counsel@Stritmatter.com or 206.448.1777.  Seattle law firm, Stritmatter Kessler Whelan, is investigating cases involving defective Takata airbags.

See below for a large chunk of the car makers and models that are included in the recall:

Toyota: 778,177 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2004 Lexus SC
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2004 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2004 Toyota Tundra
2003 – 2004 Pontiac Vibe

Honda: 2,803,214 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord (4 cyl)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord (6 cyl)
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL

Nissan: 437,712 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – Infiniti FX

Mazda: 18,050 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2004 Mazda6
2004 – Mazda RX-8

BMW: 573,935 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible

General Motors: 133,221 total number potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2003 Buick LeSabre
2002 – 2003 Buick Rendezvous
2002 – 2003 Cadillac DeVille
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Impala
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Venture
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy XL
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Bravada
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Bonneville
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Montana

NOTE: Video clip of interview is from PBS.org.

How can we learn from Seattle bike accidents?

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

How can we learn from another Seattle bike accident? The one that occurred earlier this month resulted in life threatening injuries to a 26 year old cyclist, when a Metro trolley bus hit him.

Investigators are still looking into the details of the cause. However, anyone who knows the area–Rainier Ave S and South Jackson, can probably guess what likely occurred. Cyclists familiar with that stretch of road know that there are streetcar tracks. These tracks can wreak havoc with cyclists who want to cross over or ride alongside them. (Again, the exact details of the May 4, 2015 accident are still under investigation.)

Here’s a suggestion: How about some warning signs to both bus drivers and cyclists? There were reportedly some close calls before this horrendous accident. How about painting that part of the road to alert cyclists?

At our firm, well known bike injury attorney Keith L. Kessler has presented on some of the cyclist hazards of road design (Here is one of his more recent presentations Bicycle Litigation Strategy – Roadway Safety Cases).  Recall the Gendler case (one of the largest recent settlements against the State): Our firm represented injured cyclist, Mickey Gendler, whose bike tire got caught on a seam on the Montlake Bridge. Note that the State had known about this hazard to bicyclists for years before this tragic accident. One would hope that these types of accidents would serve as red flags to road designers/engineers who know if cyclists will frequent a route that is shared with cars and street cars/trolleys. If we truly want to live up to being one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, let’s walk the walk.

NOTE: This blog post was originally published in SKWBikeLaw blog.

 

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