Research & Statistics

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.

Family of young girl hit at Redmond Town Center files wrongful death lawsuit


Last Friday, the Drehers filed a wrongful death/premises liability lawsuit against Redmond Town Center among other defendants. Young Susie Dreher was playing at the unguarded RTC Sensory Garden, which is located next to a busy street.

A press conference was held at the Dreher house to share a little of what the Drehers have gone through and what they hope to achieve with legal action. KIRO, Q13, and the Seattle Times have covered the story.

Calling all Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep & Ram owners: Do you choose $100 or risking your life?

Fiat Chryslers recall includes over 11 million vehicles, including the Chrysler Dodge Dakota 2011 with defective steering and rear axles.

Fiat Chryslers recall includes over 11 million vehicles, including the Chrysler Dodge Dakota 2011 with defective steering and rear axles.

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.

Brad J. Moore takes the helm as Public Justice President

SKW partner Brad J. Moore is ready to lead the nation's largest public interest law firm into 2016.

SKW partner Brad J. Moore is ready to lead the nation’s largest public interest law firm into 2016.

“I was meant to be a part of this place.”

That’s how Brad Moore, the newly elected President of the Public Justice Foundation, described the natural fit he sees between his work as a trial attorney and his commitment to Public Justice’s work.

Noting that his firm – Stritmatter Kessler Whelan – “has done three cases with Public Justice over the years,” Moore says that “The work that Public Justice does is right up my alley.”

The road leading to his year-long Presidency at the organization’s helm, which has just kicked off, began as early as Public Justice itself. He was introduced to the organization through his law partner and mentor, Paul Stritmatter, who is a founder of Public Justice. That, in turn, led to a close friendship with former president Jack Landskroner, who guided Moore on the path to his current leadership position on the board.

A career as a litigator, however, wasn’t always a sure thing.

Moore grew up with a lawyer for a dad (who would later become his law partner), and a mom who served as Majority Leader in the Washington State House of Representatives. His own journey to the law began, in part, as a tour guide through the Canadian Rockies. Moore led over 50, eight to ten day motorcoach tours throughout British Columbia and Alberta, and his stint as a tour guide revealed how comfortable he was with talking and engaging with people of varied backgrounds. As a result, “talking with and in front of jurors has come somewhat natural to me,” he says.

That, along with an influential Philosophy of Law class in college, led to Moore becoming a passionate advocate for insureds and consumers, injury victims and victims of defective products. His work fighting for those seeking justice makes him a perfect choice to lead Public Justice.

In addition to guiding Public Justice’s existing work in the States, Moore says another priority for his tenure as President will be finding ways to build relationships and associate with Canadian lawyers to pursue high impact public interest lawsuits in Canada.

“The things we care about as a public interest organization here in the States, Canadians also care about,” he notes. “Canadian trial attorneys are fighting so many important battles that are the same as we’re facing here: environmental degradation, preserving access to civil justice and civil rights advocacy, like this year’s Trial Lawyer of the Year finalist from Nova Scotia.”

“That’s why I’m looking into how we can create a strong presence up there.”

Reaching out across borders is another talent that comes naturally to Moore. Outside of his work and home in Seattle, he also has a home in Thailand. He has been fascinated by Southeast Asia since his first trip to the region in the mid-1980s, during which he became one of the first Americans to enter Vietnam following the end of the war.

Now Moore, who succeeds Esther Berezofsky as President of Public Justice, will turn that same passion for reaching out, building alliances and fighting for justice to his new role leading the organization into 2016.

NOTE: This article was republished from PublicJustice.net.

Fiat Chrysler Recall Farther Reaching than Takata Recall

2015 might just easily earn the dubious distinction as the Year of the Historic Recalls. We started off the year with news about the GM ignition recalls and the early months led to a great deal of hand-wringing over the massive Honda/Takata airbag recall. Now, the public is hit with news about the massive Fiat Chrysler recall. Given our firm’s long history of auto products liability cases, we continue to get requests to look at cases involving serious injuries resulting stemming from these recall issues.

Earlier this week, federal regulators slapped a $105 million penalty against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles for its failure to complete 23 safety recalls that included over 11 million vehicles. If you’re wondering whether this is the highest civil penalty imposed yet by NHTSA on an automaker for recall violations, then you are right.

This recall also demonstrates an escalation of the agency’s efforts to investigate and punish automakers that do not adequately recall and fix defective models.

“This civil penalty puts manufacturers on notice that the department will act when they do not take their obligations to repair safety defects seriously,” said the secretary of transportation, Anthony Foxx.

In a statement, the automaker acknowledged the safety violations and agreed to the record penalties.

“We also accept the resulting consequences with renewed resolve to improve our handling of recalls and re-establish the trust our customers place in us,” the company said.

The agency said the civil penalty was broken down into a cash penalty of $70 million, and an agreement that Fiat Chrysler would spend at least $20 million on meeting performance requirements detailed in the consent order. An additional penalty of $15 million will be assessed on the company if an independent monitor, who has yet to be announced, discovers further violations of safety laws or the consent order.

Under the order, Fiat Chrysler is required to buy back as many as 500,000 vehicles with defective suspensions that can cause drivers to lose control. Also, owners of more than one million Jeeps with rear-mounted gas tanks that are prone to fires will be given an opportunity to trade in their vehicles at rates above market value.

Mark R. Rosekind, who took over as the administrator of the highway safety agency last December, said the heavy fine was a direct result of Fiat Chrysler’s prolonged failures to fix recalled models.

“Fiat Chrysler’s pattern of poor performance put millions of its customers, and the driving public, at risk,” he said.

The agency is authorized to impose a maximum fine of $35 million for an individual recall that is not completed in a timely manner.

The government’s action is the latest in a series of moves by Mr. Rosekind to put more pressure on automakers to fix defective vehicles.

“We need a proactive safety culture in this country,” he told reporters at a recent briefing in Detroit.

The agency has come under harsh criticism in Congress and by theTransportation Department’s inspector general for lax enforcement of auto safety regulations.

In Fiat Chrysler’s case, this month the government took the unusual step of holding a public hearing to focus on 23 separate recalls that date back to 2009. At the hearing, federal officials said the company had repeatedly failed to notify consumers of recalls and to complete repairs in a timely fashion.

The company’s top safety executive, Scott Kunselman, admitted the automaker had made “mistakes and missteps” in conducting recalls. “The agency has raised some legitimate questions,” he said at the hearing on July 2.

The automaker has started several new recalls since the hearing, including one on July 24, 2015 (this past Friday) that covered 1.4 million vehicles vulnerable to computer hackers.“The $105 million fine shows the need for an uncapped penalty,” said Clarence Ditlow, an official of the Center for Auto Safety who first petitioned the government to investigate the rear-mounted fuel tanks in Jeeps.

Fiat Chrysler is currently recalling 1.59 million Jeeps equipped with the rear-mounted gas tanks, which can catch on fire in high-speed collisions.

The company is installing trailer hitches on the affected Jeeps to soften the impact of rear-end collisions. But the rate of repairs in that recall has been slow, government investigators say.

Under the consent order, Jeep owners will have the option to trade in a vehicle for above market value or receive an unspecified payment from Fiat Chrysler to install a trailer hitch.

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.

Cyclist Run Over By Bus Continues His Long Recovery

Daniel at Harborview

Daniel pictured at Harborview soon after the incident, unable to move his legs or much of his upper body.

Close up of the sharrows that lead southbound cyclists to the gutter and to the right of buses.

Close up of the sharrows that lead southbound cyclists to the gutter and to the right of buses.

A little over a month ago, cyclist commuter Daniel Ahrendt was on his way to his web developer job in the Georgetown neighborhood. A lifelong cyclist, Daniel saw that that Monday morning was dry and perfect for cycling. As he made his way westbound on S. Jackson during the rush hour, he was in the bike lane with buses lined up sharing that same lane. As he crossed the intersection, he knew that the sharrows would lead him to the right of a bus directly in front of him. Making the safer choice, he aimed for the left side of the lane. That’s when his bike tire got caught in the streetcar tracks. While he was down, the rear tires of a trolley bus ran over the the lower half of his body.

Cyclists in the community and the larger public held their breath, as news reports indicated that Daniel had “life threatening injuries.

Just yesterday, a full month after the May 4th incident, Daniel was discharged from Harborview. His devoted parents have stayed by his side through this nightmare (they had learned via social media about Daniel’s incident and hopped on the next plane to Seattle from Hawaii).

While he has a long road to recovery, we are grateful that he is finally out of Harborview to regain some semblance of a “normal” life. In my conversations with him, his eternal optimism and quiet strength distinguish him. While he requires help for the most basic tasks, his fortitude and positive attitude fuel his hope for better days ahead. Full disclosure: SKW attorneys represents injured bicyclist Daniel Ahrendt.

Sarah's grad CROPPED

Daniel with his sister on her graduation and w/mother Karrie Ahrendt.

A wealth of brain research in Seattle– hopefully brings us closer to addressing brain diseases.


Some of firm’s most heartbreaking cases are those that involve Brain Injury. Because of my father’s recent brain surgery, this topic strikes close to home. So, when I read today’s Seattle Times article First database of brain-cell types released by Allen Institute about the groundbreaking research in our own town, I just had to share. As our firm sees with brain injury cases, there is still so much for us to learn.

At the Allen Brian Institute, the first of its kind database of neurons is now available for widespread use. Neurons are the building blocks to our nervous system. They come in different shapes and sizes with corresponding functions. So, take my father, who recently had a craniotomy that affected his motor neurons. These send information away from the central nervous system to muscles or glands. For obvious reasons, his recovery is focused on his motor skills as well as planning skills. The Allen Brain Institute (ABI) database categorizes over 240 types of neurons, standardizing their location, electrical activity and shape.

This database is the first important step of the ABI’s 10 year plan to learn about the connection between these neurons and perception, decision making, and action. This type of information is critical to get at the root of dysfunctional brain processes that we see with autistic, Parkinsonian, or Alzheimer patients.

By amassing this valuable information in a dynamic and revolutionary database, brain scientists, neurologists, and biomedical scientists will have a richer arsenal to understand how to tackle different brain diseases, such as glioblastoma multiforme,  This is an aggressive and deadly type of brain cancer. The majority of people diagnosed with the disease survive little more than a year and there are few treatments.

“Identifying neuronal cell types is essential to unraveling the mystery of how the brain processes information and gives rise to perception, memory and consciousness,” says Christof Koch, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “This is the first resource of its kind to bring together multiple types of data—shape, position in the brain and electrical activity—in a single searchable database anywhere on the planet.”

 

 

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