Government

What’s in a name–Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Koehler Moore Kahler*?

This past Friday, rapellers prepare to hang our new sign.

This past Friday, rapellers prepare to hang our new sign.

Since our move to our new building, our firm continues to scale to new heights. Figuratively, we helped shape and advance law to make the roads safer in our state: The Washington Supreme Court‘s unanimous decision of Wuthrich v. King County  was one of our more recent victories, which tossed out old law and clearly stated that governmental entities have the same duty as private landowners in maintaining their land so that people can travel safely on adjacent roads.

Literally, we have people scaling our building at our new location to hang exterior signage.

But, we are focused on our work…

Karen barely notices the men rapelling off our buildling, as she focuses on the work at hand. (Her doggie, Nala, is perhaps a little more aware of the men.)

Karen barely notices the men rapelling off our buildling, as she focuses on the work at hand. (Her doggie, Nala, is perhaps a little more aware of the men.)

But, we can still enjoy the fact that we are loving our new building, inside and out. Pictured below is our new reception signage.

Thelma shows off our new interior signage

Thelma shows off our new interior signage

*NOTE: Stritmatter Kessler Whelan is now officially Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Koehler Moore Kahler

Why all parents should care about Data Privacy for their families. #PrivacyAware

Jan. 28, 2016 is Data Privacy Day. Let's do what we can to defend our children's privacy.

Jan. 28, 2016 is Data Privacy Day. Let’s do what we can to defend our children’s privacy. #PrivacyAware

Today, January 28, 2016, is Data Privacy Day.  Big deal? It actually is: The first Data Privacy Day that occurred in the United States and Canada was in 2008, which was observed as an extension of the Data Protection Day celebration in Europe. Data Protection Day commemorates the Jan. 28, 1981 signing of Convention 108, which was the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection.

Now led by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), Data Privacy Day has become the signature event promoting privacy awareness. Without committed defenders of privacy, like the Electronics Frontier Foundation, we would not have seen a complaint filed with the FTC against Google for unauthorized collection of school aged children’s information, when they are using Google Apps and Chromebooks in their schools. Google’s unauthorized collection of personal information from school children via Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education (GAFE)—caught the attention of Senator Al Franken, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. Franken responded by writing a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking for information about GAFE’s privacy practices.

The first step to ensure that our student privacy campaign succeeds, is to educate ourselves as parents. This way, we can direct our energy and knowledge effectively. On this Data Privacy Day, take the time to check out the resources that the Electronic Frontier Foundation compiled to regain control of your children’s privacy. Please spread the word about student privacy by sharing these and similar resources with other parents!

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that parents understand their and their children’s rights. We live in a world where parents may be asked by schools to waive those rights before their youngsters are permitted to use technology in the classroom. Third parties will too often encourage parents to give schools consent to release their children’s information to those very third parties.

Interested in becoming part of the “privacy defender team?” There are many ways in which you can get involved.

NOTE: This blog post is republished from my PrivacyLawDiva blog post.

 

WA Supreme Court decision is unanimous: Government has a duty to provide safe roads

Overgrown blackberry bushes (see left side of photo) obstructed drivers' view of oncoming traffic.

Overgrown blackberry bushes (see left side of photo) obstructed drivers’ view of oncoming traffic.

Often my heart swells with pride for the work that my firm does because the results from our cases truly make our state safer for everyone. Today is one of those days: In a unanimous decision in Wuthrich v. King County, the Washington State Supreme Court held that a municipality has a duty to take reasonable steps to address overgrown roadside vegetation that makes the roadway unsafe for drivers approaching an intersection.

Today’s decision advances roadway safety for anyone who travels the roads in Washington State. As our state’s highest court maintains: A municipality has the overarching duty to provide reasonably safe roads and must be held to the same standards as that applied to private parties.

Our state’s supreme court now explicitly rejects old law that held that a municipality’s duty is limited to mere compliance with applicable law. Moreover, an “inherently dangerous condition” does not exclusively depend on a condition that “exists in the roadway itself.” A hazard may exist as a situation along a highway, such as overgrown bushes that obstruct drivers’ view of oncoming traffic.

The decision today stems from a June 2011 lawsuit that Guy Wuthrich filed against Christa Gilland and King County. Guy was riding a motorcycle on Avondale Road NE in King County, approaching an intersection with NE 159th Street on June 20, 2008 at about 5:15 PM. Drivers on 159th St. have a stop sign at the intersection, but drivers on Avondale Road do not. Christa Gilland was driver a car on 159th Street. When she reached the intersection with Avondale Rd., she stopped to wait for passing traffic. She did not see Guy approaching from her left. She turned left onto Avondale Road and collided into Guy’s motorcycle, resulting in serious injuries to Guy. The lawsuit alleged that the County was liable for Guy’s injuries because the wall of overgrown blackberry bushes on County property obstructed Ms. Gilland’s view of traffic at the intersection. The trial court dismissed the action against the County on summary judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed in a split decision.

Some of you may have already seen our Ray Kahler argue before the Supreme Court. But, in case you missed it and want to hear some stellar arguments, click here.  Kudos to the entire team, including Ray, Keith Kessler, Garth Jones and Brad J. Moore.

Please help Ride the Ducks Victim for living & recovery expenses

Ride the Ducks victim needs help for basic living expenses as she recovers.

Ride the Ducks victim needs help for basic living expenses as she recovers.

On September 24, 2015, 18-year-old Phuong Dinh snapped photographs from her window seat in a charter bus filled with other North Seattle College students as it motored across the Aurora Bridge.

“And then, ‘Bam,’ ” she recalls. “Nothing else. Just flashes after that. I would faint. Then I would be awake and very bad pain all over. Then I would faint.”

Later in a hospital bed, memories from a deadly crash flooded back: She remembered blood covering her face and dripping down. She saw a bone piercing through the skin of her left leg.

The left side of Phuong’s body was crushed. She suffered a broken wrist, arm, hip, knee, and extensive facial lacerations.  Now, four surgeries later and almost three months after the crash, Phuong spends her days in a Central District nursing facility in Seattle, slogging toward recovery and worrying about her future.

Phuong cried often during her initial weeks in the rehab facility.  Now she says she doesn’t cry as much because she is getting used to the pain. Phuong’s main concern now is learning to walk again. Still unable to bear weight on her left leg, the bones of which are now reinforced with metal rods and screws, she mostly needs to use a wheelchair.

Aside from the continuing health-care costs which will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, Phuong’s parents have paid their own travel from Vietnam to Seattle, and while they’ve had their lodging covered by the Salvation Army, they worry about the future.

Phuongs’s father, Hiep, who runs a family construction business, remains in Seattle. Her mother, Thao, has had to fly back and forth to Vietnam to also care for Phuong’s 3 year old sister and 6 year old brother.  The little kids are staying with their grandparents and a nanny.

Once Phuong gets out of the nursing home the family will have to figure out how to care for her so that she can attend school.  A host family is probably no longer possible due to Phuong’s physical disabilities and need for accommodation.

Funds raised will go towards basic living and recovery expenses for Phuong and her family. 

A message from Phuong: “Thank you for caring for me and my family. Knowing I have your support means the world to me.” Visit her fundraising site here. Thank you for considering giving, during this difficult time for Phuong.

Ride the Ducks victim hopes to get needed health care

 

SKW client, Phuong Dinh, continues to recover from the Ride the Ducks crash. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

SKW client, Phuong Dinh, continues to recover from the Ride the Ducks crash. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

A few days ago, news reported the plight of SKW client, Phuong Dinh, 18 year old international student, who was seriously injured in the Oct. 2015 Ride the Ducks crash. With a long way to go in her recovery, she also had to worry about losing her health coverage. Please read about the wonderful turn of events in today’s Seattle Times article,”Ride the Ducks crush victim to get help from state, college.

Watch the WA Supreme Court oral arguments for Wuthrich v. King County


Decide for yourself who has the more cogent arguments, when watching the Washington State Supreme Court oral arguments for Wuthrich v. King County. We’re proud of Ray Kahler, Seattle/Hoquiam trial lawyer for demonstrating his mastery of the relevant case law in arguing for Wuthrich.

Ray Kahler argues in front of the Washington State Supreme Court

Today, our own Ray Kahler* argued in front of the Washington State Supreme Court on behalf of plaintiff Wuthrich against King County. To boil the issue down to the most basic form: Does the County have a duty to maintain property where overgrown vegetation may obstruct sight lines and result in a car accident?

The Supreme Court has not decided this issue, and it has been over 50 years since the Supreme Court has addressed the question of whether a governmental entity can be liable for failure to maintain vegetation that presents a sight obstruction.  This case gives the Supreme Court an opportunity to decide these questions.

Our SKW legal team* argued that, in light of the waiver of sovereign immunity, a governmental entity should be held to the same standard as a private landowner with regard to the duty to maintain vegetation: It should not create a hazard for motorists on the adjacent roadways.

Check back for a link to today’s oral arguments!

*Ray Kahler, Keith Kessler along with Garth Jones and Brad J. Moore make up the SKW team for plaintiff Guy Wuthrich.

SF may let cyclists yield at stop signs. Divisive move or a wise one? #SoundsLikeABadIdea

Dan is a True Cyclist, unlike me, a Pseudocyclist who stays agnostic as the divide between drivers and cyclists widen.

Dan is a True Cyclist, unlike me, a Pseudocyclist who stays agnostic as the divide between drivers and cyclists widen all across the country. (Photo: I grabbed this w/o permission from Dan’s FB wall.)

The divide between cyclists and drivers seems to grow by the month. Personally, I try to sit on the sidelines because I can see both perspectives. However, I also see drivers practically kill cyclists with inattention and poor habits. In many ways, I’m a wanna-be-cyclist, as I love to ride my bike with my child around our quiet neighborhood of Magnolia. However, at my job I see more than my share of tragic accidents, where diligent cyclists get mowed down because a driver was too busy texting his girlfriend or just didn’t bother to yield at a stop sign for a cyclist, who had the right of way.

Regardless, I’m undecided about the possible new law that will allow cyclists in San Francisco to yield at a stop sign. The widely acknowledged “Idaho stop,” named because it’s legal in Idaho for cyclists, may cause greater consternation among drivers, who are increasingly angered by rule-flouting cyclists. From my vantage point, it #SoundsLikeABadIdea. But, I’m going to ask our resident cyclist/attorney, Dan the Bike Man, for his studied perspective. Stay tuned for some potentially interesting banter between Dan, an endurance cyclist by night/weekend and trial attorney by day and myself, the mild-mannered pseudo-cyclist…

WSDOT & SDOT form Aurora Bridge “safety team”


A couple weeks have passed since the last significant crash Aurora Bridge that claimed six lives. Based on a KING5 news story tonight, a safety team of sorts is assembling. Team members are comprised of six individuals from SDOT and two from WSDOT.

The SDOT members include the city’s traffic engineer, two collision analysts, a corridor safety expert and the division manager for transportation. A project manager along with a state traffic engineer and regional administrator will head the team. Additionally, police and other city and state agencies are expected to participate.

Some of the members wear different hats within their agencies and others will focus entirely on their role on this team per KING5 investigative reporter, Glenn Farley.

This time, let’s shine a light on this entire process and ensure that the City and State follow through in making the bridge safer. Rather than focusing on misleading statistics (e.g., the relatively “low” number of crashes), let’s open our eyes to widespread and well-founded concerns of those who must drive on this bridge regularly with the fear of another fatal collision.

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