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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.

Dan the Bike Man Responds and Agrees that letting Cyclists simply yield #ItSoundsLikeABadIdea

Well folks, Dan Laurence responded to my previous blog post. Admittedly, I’m surprised that he agrees: The possible new law allowing cyclists to simply yield at stop signs is a bad idea. Here’s what he says:

People for the “Idaho stop” law tend to focus on the personal convenience  (personal rights!) and not the epidemiological consequences (social Responsibilities!).  Allowing cyclists to not stop is one more variable thrown into the set of expectations for predicting behavior of other vehicles on the road.

I actually believe that laws that treat cyclists differently from motor vehicles are, on balance, dangerous for cyclists, because they vacate commonly appreciated expectations for road behavior.  To be safe, a driver needs to not only obey the law, but be able to predict what other road users are likely to do.  confusion in that regard decreases safety.  at least some driver’s won’t know the new law, or will be angry about it and ignore it out of spite. Moreover, the “Idaho stop” law would lead to complacency among cyclists. the increase in convenience promised by an “IDAHO STOP” comes with increased risk of collisions with motor vehicles and pedestrians.

True, compared to motor vehicles, cyclists go relatively slowly and have unobstructed vision. They are usually capable of appreciating cross-traffic risk so long as they come to a “rolling stop”. Moreover, they feel the pressure of holding back traffic behind them. Asking cyclists to signed intersections with no traffic seems ridiculous to cyclists much of the time. But the real problem is cyclists who will use the law as a reason not to bother to slow down, or develop a bad habit of thinking “this intersection never has cross traffic, so why bother to slow down?”, or who ignore the fact that cars may not see them on approach to the intersection. [Emphasis added.] This is especially true among cyclists in dark clothing without lights who ride in twilight, on gloomy days, or at night; something i see (unfortunately) all the time.  There is also the problem of the car on the opposing side ready to turn left that fails to signal, or signals but thinks the cyclist will yield, and will turn left in front of the cyclist.

I’m sure I could go on, but Catherine, as much as I don’t like stopping unnecessarily, I agree with you.  As a cyclist, I think that if I run a stop sign, the risk should fall squarely on me.

Let’s not pass this law. #ItSoundsLikeABadIdea given that few cyclists are getting tickets for running stop signs, i question the need for the change in law. Better simply to treat the issue similarly to the way Seattle treats marijuana usage: a very low priority enforced only when someone is behaving recklessly.

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.

Head injury results in young football player’s death

18 yr old Kenney Bui died after an injury last week at a football game. He played for Highline School District.   Photo Credit: Highline Public School

17 year old Kenney Bui died after an injury last week at a football game. He played for Highline School District. Photo Credit: Highline Public School

I’ve written about the dangers of brain injury for football players before, and knew that it was a matter of time when another tragedy on the football field would claim the life of another player. This time, it was young Kenney Bui of Highline School District.

Seventeen year old Kenney was a student at the Technology, Engineering, and Communications High School on the Evergreen campus. Last week, he went down for an injury in the fourth quarter of a game. After hospitalization, doctors learned that he had a previous concussion weeks before the football game that claimed his life. Not much to say about this, given that the details are scant regarding Kenney’s fatal injuries. Nevertheless, our heart goes out to the family, friends, and teammates of Kenney. We hope that somehow more people grow aware of the risks around football, as much as it’s a beloved sport in our country. There has to be a way to make it safer and less of a risk for brain injuries.

 

Deadly Aurora Bridge accident is a wake up call.

This past Thursday’s deadly Aurora Bridge crash is a wake up call. Some reporters are sounding the alarm. Thanks to these reporters and responsive lawmakers, I have hope that we will see big changes on the Aurora Bridge. My reason for this hope is in large part thanks to Glenn Farley’s investigative piece on KING5 and the article by Seattle Times reporters Mike Lindblom and Joseph O’Sullivan*. These reporters are pressing the important issue, rather than focusing entirely on the clumsy Ducks.

As I previously blogged, the City and the State have known for years that there are fixes to avoid more tragic accidents on the Aurora Bridge. Our firm learned this via depositions when representing victims from the 1998 incident on the bridge (that claimed six lives). Now, we are getting calls from victims and families from this past Thursday’s  deadly crash, given our record settlements/verdicts with wrongful death/catastrophic injuries cases in Seattle against the government.

Skeptics claim that a jersey barrier wouldn’t have done anything to prevent this fatal crash between an amphibious Duck and a charter bus. I respectfully disagree, given experts’ reports (from the earlier Aurora Bridge case). These experts explain how certain jersey barriers would deflect and minimize the impact of oncoming traffic.

Times like this, in the aftermath of a horrific tragedy, help to provide us with important insights on how we may prevent more needless loss of lives.

NOTE: Nathan Wilson, KOMO TV, executive producer/director at KOMO News also did a story, interviewing our own Keith Kessler, who represented several victims from the previous, high profile Aurora Bridge crash. Check back soon to see a link to that story.

Median Barriers & Today’s Deadly Aurora Bridge Crash

SDOT had plans to install median barrier. That likely would have saved lives and reduced the impact of today's incident.

SDOT had plans to install median barrier years ago. That likely would have saved lives and reduced the impact of today’s incident.

A horrific collision involving a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle ground traffic to a halt on the Aurora Bridge earlier today. From reports and eyewitness accounts, apparently the Duck crossed into oncoming traffic.

In a similar case that our firm handled, we deposed SDOT employees. From those depositions, we learned that the State and City has talked about installing a barrier for many years. Stritmatter Kessler Whelan deposed WSDOT and SDOT employees several years ago for a case where a Metro bus driver was shot, and the bus traveled across oncoming lanes on the Aurora Bridge, crashed through the railing and plunged to the ground. At that time, we reviewed plans for adding a pedestrian walkway at a level just below the bridge, enabling the City to remove the sidewalk, and move the lanes over to accommodate the median barrier. Obviously, that was never done. If a barrier had been in place, it would have deflected the impact of the Duck and the deadly crash with the oncoming bus would have never happened.

In 1993, 1994 and again in 1997, in preparation of a resurfacing project, WSDOT considered a median barrier for the bridge. The issue fell through the cracks. The pressing issue at that time was that the structural steel of the bridge was beginning to show signs of deterioration. Thus, repairs needed to be made w/in a 2 year period. Limited funding for anything beyond the basic repairs was a problem for WSDOT.  As a result, although everyone recognized the need for a barrier, the project was put off for another day. In fact, it would have cost only an additional $800K – $1.2 M to provide the additional structural support needed for the median barrier. Additionally, the annual economic cost in terms of societal losses exceeds $2 M on that bridge. Given that WSDOT & SDOT have to operate with limited funds, a cost-benefit analysis was warranted for this type of scenario.  I certainly don’t mean to second-guess transportation/traffic engineers. However, our firm’s experience with roadway design cases (and in particular w/our case involving the Aurora Bridge) tells us that a barrier would have deflected the Duck vehicle and prevented the most recent tragedy.

More cyclists over 45 years old leads to jump in fatal bike accidents


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.

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