Consumer Protection

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.

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.

FDA reveals duodenoscope procedures likely infected far more than initially reported

Why didn't FDA and hospitals come out earlier and more forcefully about the risks of scope procedure?

Why didn’t FDA and hospitals come out earlier and more forcefully about the risks of scope procedure?

Ahead of next week’s advisory panel convening, the FDA released some eye opening details related to the superbug outbreaks linked to dirty duodenoscopes. Reports of these outbreaks occurred at hospitals across the country, including Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA

Federal regulators disclosed additional clues about the potential harm to patients from a controversial medical scope, providing 142 reports of contaminated devices and possible patient infections since 2010. This came out via a May 7, 2015  LA Times article.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had previously said it received about half that many reports, 75, on duodenoscopes that caused patient infections in 2013 and 2014.

The number of patients involved could be far higher than 142 given that one adverse event report may include many individual procedures/people.

The FDA panel of medical experts is expected to recommend additional steps to regulators, device manufacturers and hospitals. These are steps needed to protect patients undergoing a procedure known as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP.

Officials report that 669,000 ERCP procedures were performed last year on patients battling cancer, gallstones and other digestive issues.

As we have seen in the news, advocates and lawmakers are directing harsh criticism at the FDA and Olympus Corp., maker of duodenoscopes. Why did they not sooner and more emphatically to report these hospital outbreaks? This would have alerted the broader medical community about the risks of the scope procedure.

Investigations have revealed that patients were infected even when medical centers followed the manufacturers’ (Olympus, Pentax Medical, and Fujifilm) cleaning instructions. Health officials learned that deadly bacteria are easily trapped at the tip of these duodenoscopes.

“The transmission of infectious material from patient to patient during ERCP, although uncommon, represents a serious public health concern,” the FDA states in its latest report.

Federal officials acknowledged that their surveillance system for medical devices has limitations and that incidents can be underreported by manufacturers.

Trek Bicycles has recalled almost 1 million bikes for safety issues,

Trek Bicycles is recalling nearly 1 million bikes in the US and almost 100,000 in Canada for a safety issue that resulted in one rider becoming paralyzed.

The Trek bike recall involves a “quick release” lever on the front wheel. The quick release lever is a problem in that it can interfere with the disk brakes, which would cause the wheel to stop turning or to separate from the bike frame, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Trek said it is aware of three incidents where the problem caused riders to be injured, including one that resulted in quadriplegia. The others involved facial and wrist injuries.

The Trek bikes are from model years 2000 to 2015 and were sold nationwide beginning in 1999. The bikes, made in Taiwan and China, were sold at prices between $480 to $1,650. Trek, a Wisconsin-based bike company, has offered to replace the quick release lever free of charge. It is also offering a $20 coupon good for bike accessories made by Bontrager.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you,” Trek says in a notice announcing the recall. “We value you as a customer and want you to safely enjoy cycling on your Trek bicycle.”

Nordstrom Can’t Keep Family Plane Ride Claims Sealed

The following is from Law360. By Jonathan Randles
Law360, New York (April 07, 2015, 4:55 PM ET) — A Washington federal judge refused Tuesday to keep sealed portions of a lawsuit accusing Nordstrom Inc. of hiding the cost of operating a fleet of private airplanes for the Nordstrom family, rejecting the company’s argument that the plaintiff had agreed before filing the lawsuit to keep the information under wraps.U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour denied Nordstrom’s motion to seal the complaint, ruling the company failed to give a “compelling reason” to keep information in the complaint a secret. Plaintiff Judith Burbrink has accused Nordstrom of filing misleading proxy statements with the U.S.Securities and Exchange Commission that mask substantial costs associated with operating the family’s planes.

Judge Coughenour said although a private agreement may have been reached between the parties before the start of the litigation, no deal has been presented to the court. Further, Nordstrom has only offered “vague” privacy concerns related to the release of the information that don’t trump the strong presumption that judicial documents be made public.

“It is possible that Plaintiff violated a private agreement by filing this lawsuit and converting non-public information into a judicial record,” Judge Coughenour said. “However, the Court is not presently tasked with interpreting or enforcing any promises made by Plaintiff to gain access to Nordstrom‘s records.”

Although the complaint was originally filed last month, specific figures detailing the approximate costs of the operation and other information is redacted in the complaint. Nordstrom, which sought to keep the data secret, argued that details related to the board’s “travel habits” should be kept private. The company said Burbrink, who obtained the information through a formal request for company records, agreed to keep the information a secret.

Nordstrom has maintained in SEC filings that the company charges the family market prices for services it provides them. Moreover, the company has stated that payments it receives from the family exceed the estimated costs of providing those services. It has denied the allegations in the complaint and said it will be vindicated in court.

However, the lawsuit claims that contrary to those filings, Nordstrom’s board “has never conducted any analysis of the costs of providing the services to the Nordstrom family.”

The complaint goes on to say that Nordstrom has been operating a “bloated and costly” flight department to manage company planes, as well as personal aircraft for the Nordstrom family. Burbrink claims the flight department has cost shareholders millions of dollars.

Nordstrom and an attorney representing Burbrink declined to comment on the order.

Burbrink is represented by Brad J. Moore of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan, Hung Ta, Natalia Williams and JooYun Kim of Hung G. Ta Esq. PLLC, Peter Safirstein and Roger Sachar of Morgan & Morgan PC and Konstantine W. Kyros of Kyros Law Offices.

Nordstrom is represented by David S. Keenan, Robert P. Varian and M. Todd Scott of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

The case is Judith Burbank v. Phyllis J. Campbell et al., case number 2:15-cv-00377, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Were you affected by the Anthem data breach?

We are actively investigating a class action lawsuit against Anthem for Washington State consumers. We have spoken with a few individuals who have already received a notice of the data breach. If you know of someone in Washington who was insured with Anthem and who has received notice of the breach, please contact me at Catherine@stritmatter.com or Counsel@stritmatter.com.

Wrongful Death lawsuit against Scope-maker Olympus & Virginia Mason Medical Center

Lisa Miller, 53 year old mother of two, died weeks after her second "routine" ERCP procedure at Virginia Mason. Her husband and family are suing both scope maker Olympus & VMMC.

Lisa Miller, 53 year old mother of two, died weeks after her second “routine” ERCP procedure at Virginia Mason. Her husband and family are suing both scope maker Olympus & VMMC.

Each week gets busier at our offices at Stritmatter Kessler Whelan. In today’s Seattle Times, one of the two* articles about SKW’s cases focuses on a senseless tragedy arising out of a routine procedure that 53 year old Lisa Miller had at Virginia Mason Medical Center in June 2013. Ms. Miller was the mother of two children and wife to Allen Miller. A VMMC doctor recommended to Lisa that she have a routine procedure (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or “ERCP”) to get to the bottom of her recurrent pancreatitis. But, a few weeks after her second “routine” procedure, she died of acute necrotizing pancreatitis. The autopsy report points to Virginia Mason contaminated duodenoscope made by medical device manufacturer Olympus.

For several years, Olympus America had known that its instructions for cleaning its duodenoscopes were ineffective and had resulted in severe infections and death.  But it had not timely disclosed this critical, life-threatening detail to medical centers around the country, which used its scopes.

Then, once VMMC learned (the news came out earlier this year) that Olympus America scopes had caused illness and death to some of its patients, it chose to sit on this information. VMMC, contrary to its well-publicized policy of “transparency,” chose not to tell the family that Ms. Miller died due to an infection caused by a contaminated Olympus duodenoscope.

When Allen read the initial news story in the Seattle Times, he reached out to our firm to pursue justice against the scope-maker, Olympus and against Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC). VMMC had never informed Lisa or Allen about the superbug outbreak or concerns about the routine procedure  that was tied to a superbug outbreak among at least 32 VMMC patients.

SKW’s Karen Koehler along with our top notch wrongful death/medical malpractice legal team is representing the Miller estate. For updates, visit this blog often.

*See previous blog post to learn about the other Seattle Times article that appeared on today’s front page.

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