Distracted Walking is as Dangerous as Distracted Driving

On days like today (70 degrees in October!), people are walking everywhere in the neighborhoods of Seattle. As I drove to run an

Distracted walking is as risky as distracted driving.

Distracted walking is as risky as distracted driving.

errand, I was amazed at the number of pedestrians who could not bother to cross at a crosswalk. These pedestrians were too busy as they gabbed on their cell or texted, while crossing a street at a busy intersection. Mind you, I’m talking about some busy, urban roads near and in downtown Seattle. These pedestrians assume that drivers are looking out for them, as they’re too distracted. Interestingly, these pedestrians were usually in their early 20’s or younger…

Dodging these clueless pedestrians reminded about a recent post that I read on End Distracted Drivers’ blog about teens as Distracted Walkers.  Dianne Anderson, the post author included some eye opening statistics.

For example,

[P]edestrian injuries among teenagers in particular have been on the rise, increasing 25 percent in the last five years in the 16-19 year-old age group… In fact, teenagers in that age group account for over half of all pedestrian deaths among children, aged 19 and under. Researchers hypothesized that the increase in pedestrian deaths in this age category was related to the use of mobile devices.

These statistics are based on a study just released by Safe Kids Worldwide, “Teens and Distraction; An In-Depth Look at Teens ‘Walking Behaviors” (August 2013).

Here are some more stunning stats:

The Safe Kids observational study of over 34,000 high school and middle school students crossing at intersections in 17 states revealed that 20% of high school students and 12% of middle school students cross the street while using a digital device.  Students were most often texting on a phone – 39%, or using headphones – 39%, and 20% were talking on the phone.

It seems that Millenials (generation born between 1980-2000) find that their environment is especially safe when a traffic light is present. But this means that teens are more willing to take the risk with their distracted walking by up to 26% in such situations. What happens if the driver is also distracted? You guessed it, there’s a much greater probability of a car-pedestrian accident, which could change the lives of those involved forever.

So, whether you’re behind the wheel or just strolling about with your cell phone, please remember that there’s a reason why texting is now against the law when you’re driving in Washington State.

In Ft. Lee, New Jersey, police began issuing $85 citations for careless walking. In Utah, the Utah Transit Authority has made distracted walking around trains punishable by a $50 fine. Personally, I think that $50 is too low.  The ultimate price, of course, is ending up maimed or killed because you were walking distracted.

*The author of the End Distracted Driving blog post referenced above is the mother of a young lady, Casey Feldman, who was killed by a distracted driver.

Important Victory for Increased Online Privacy – Google Class Action Lawsuit

This past week, an important milestone was reached for online privacy and consumer protection.

Online privacy at stake with Class Action Lawsuit Against Google

Online privacy at stake with Class Action Lawsuit Against Google

Gmail users often ignore the fact that targeted ads appeared, when accessing their Gmail. Google’s contention is that its users opt in because they have read and have agreed to Google’s Privacy Policies. But U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh disagreed.  She found that the Google’s Terms of Service and Privacy Polices did not inform users about the Gmail interceptions.  She wrote:

The Court finds, however, that those policies did not explicitly notify Plaintiffs that Google would intercept users’ emails for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising …

The Court therefore finds that a reasonable Gmail user who read the Privacy Policies would not have necessarily understood that her emails were being intercepted to create user profiles or to provide targeted advertisements. Accordingly, the Court finds that it cannot conclude at this phase that the new policies demonstrate that Gmail user Plaintiffs consented to the interceptions.

California based Consumer Watchdog Project Director explained the significance of the court’s holding: Internet communications should be subject to the same privacy laws that exist in the rest of society… The court rightly rejected Google’s tortured logic that you have to accept intrusions of privacy if you want to send email.”

Google’s interceptions of emails is not within its ordinary course of business.

Stay tuned to see the result of this case, In re Google Inc. Gmail Litigation, 13-md-02430, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).  This is going to have a huge impact in the world of online privacy.

The Stritmatters Helping Hoquiam with Paint the Corridor

Longtime Hoquiam resident, Paul Stritmatter, and his wife, Mary Elizabeth, have made a huge improvement to their community in Grays Harbor County. Recently, The Daily World wrote up a piece on the Paint the Corridor project, which only came about because of Paul’s and Mary Elizabeth’s vision and commitment to Hoquiam. Stritmatter Kessler staff, including our one and only Tricia Reid, rolled up their sleeves to get almost 70 houses painted.

Check out the article and the video below to learn about the amazing work!  Hats off to the Stritmatters, Tricia, and the rest of the hard-working Paint the Corridor crew!

September is National Spinal Cord Injury Month

Every 48 seconds in the U.S.,  a person becomes paralyzed. Most injuries arise from car/motorcycle accidents, falls, work-related incidents, and sports injuries. An estimated 200,000 people suffer from spinal cord injuries (SCI) in this country.

September is National Spinal Cord Injury Month

September is National Spinal Cord Injury Month (photo: Meryl Schenker)

Congress recently acted to bring more attention to SCI, passing a resolution declaring September National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.  By declaring the month National SCI Month, the intent of Congress was to encourage all of us to understand the significant health care needs and treatment for people with SCI.

Stritmatter Kessler partner Karen Koehler is leading the way to help the SCI community of Washington State. Several years ago, Karen founded SCIAW, a partner of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The organization has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help provide resources and support to those living with SCI. Every October, SCIAW has their energizing and fun Walk & Roll at Greenlake Park. Register now and bring your friends for a fun Saturday AM, supporting an important cause!

SCIAW and the larger SCI community urges all of us to understand how close scientists are to developing new therapies that one day will allow us to live without any physical limitations.

Scientists are poised to find a cure. The FDA has approved the world’s only Phase 1 human clinical trial testing a cellular therapy on people with spinal cord injuries.

During this month, I hope people will remember the struggles of that those with SCI confront on a daily basis. Please consider donating to organizations that will allow millions to live normal lives again without the limitations resulting from spinal cord injury.


NFL’s $765 Million Settlement Will Reach Far Beyond Football

Right in time before the kickoff of the new season, the NFL made the wise choice of settling the class action lawsuit that focused on the debilitating brain injuries resulting from the sport. The lawsuit pointed to evidence that the League chose to turn a blind eye to plentiful information about the dangers of playing football. By paying roughly 4,500 litigants, the NFL does not have to answer legal questions regarding its knowledge about the dangers of concussions on the field.

NFL's $765 million settlement shines a light on brain injuries arising from violent sports.

NFL’s $765 million settlement shines a light on brain injuries arising from violent sports.

The lawsuit and its settlement highlight the profound risk of repeated head injuries. Not only are the medical costs astronomical, retired players reportedly suffered from severe depression, amnesia, uncontrollable anger, and dementia. Often, protracted treatment has led to addiction to pain medication and/or suicide. Dave Duerson (Bears, Giants and Phoenix Cardinals) and Junior Seau (San Diego Chargers) committed suicide, after facing the prospect of a lifetime of brain disease.

Another important ramification of the settlement is the reach that it has to other sports that present risks of brain injury to its players. Most notably, the National Hockey League cannot ignore the many problems stemming from the violence on the ice. At an even larger level, any organization that encourages or exposes its participants/players to violent impact to the head will need to take heed.

WA Bill Would Allow Governmental Entities to Postpone Payments in Negligence Cases

A Washington State Bill 5803 would allow governmental entities found negligent to put off paying the plaintiff(s) indefinitely, if a jury awards more than $1 million to an individual or $2 million to a group. To rub salt into the wounds of a catastrophically injured claimant, the  judgment against the governmental entity would not accrue interest in the meantime. Consider how this could leave those who are rendered tetraplegic whose medical bills quickly add up and its family doesn’t have the means to pay for ongoing care.

WA State knew about the dangers of Montlake Bridge and did nothing for years before cyclist Mickey Gendler was injured.

WA State knew about the dangers of Montlake Bridge and did nothing for years before cyclist Mickey Gendler was injured.

The Senate Republican Caucus leader claim that state and local agencies could save money by keeping insurance costs down. What this also would mean, however, is that such entities would not have to take responsibility for its negligence and continue to cut corners or ignore important safety issues.

Take for example the case of Gendler, where SKW Keith Kessler and his team represented a profoundly injured cyclist. The cyclist, Mickey Gendler, was injured on Montlake Bridge when his bike’s tire got caught in the bridge’s grating. Despite the State’s knowledge of this danger and internal communication that this was dangerous for cyclists, it did nothing. The Gendler case is a landmark case in holding the State accountable. The large settlement of $8 million is called for because of the lifetime of care that Mickey Gendler will need as the result of his injury. If the government can avoid these payments, plaintiffs may never receive the medical attention and care that they need. Moreover, their financial situation would be dire without the injured person’s ability to work or care for herself.

WA SB 5803 must never become law, if we are to continue to hold the government accountable for its clear negligence that results in profound injuries or death to innocent citizens.

Will a revised Toxic Substances Control Act allow increased usage of “completely safe” chemicals?

Have you ever heard of n-propyl bromide or nPB? Probably not. But you may want to know the far-reaching physical harm that this industrial chemical can cause. Dry cleaners, furniture makers and upholsters use it. In fact, in the past several years, workers from the furniture making and dry cleaning industries have complained of impaired cognitive function, memory loss, inability to walk, muscle spasms, numbness in fingers, and weakness–all linked to nPB. How could this be? After all nPB based products that industry giant EnviroTech markets is an “eco friendly alternative” to perchlorethylene or perc. Perc was initially untested when it was first used, but after water supplies were found contaminated with the chemical, it was banned in the U.S. and other countries under an international treaty.

Here’s the thing: regulators say that nPB could have an even more negative health impacts than perc. The immediate symptoms that include profound neurological injuries only hint at the cancers that those exposed to nPB could develop in years to come.

The chemical nPB actually eats away at nerve endings. Those who have great exposure to it may never be able to have children, according to researchers. Even lower levels of exposure could lead to cancer, according to National Institute of Health researchers.

How nPB has succeeded in the marketplace seems like a mystery. But the key to unlocking the mystery is recognition that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) does little to help federal regulators tackle substances that scientists claim are highly toxic still used in this country. TSCA is 37 years old and is the only environmental law that has not been significantly overhauled since it was first drafted.

Note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) never set a mandatory exposure limit for nPB, although it highlighted its many hazards as far back as 1999. The EPA has recommended limits on fumes in the workplace, but it has virtually no authority to enforce these standards.

Earlier this year, the New York Times editorial board called for reform of the TSCA, saying,

It would be hard to design a law more stacked against the regulators than the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which is supposed to ensure the safety of thousands of chemicals used in household products and manufacturing. It is long past time for Congress to reform the law so that it provides genuine protection against harmful chemicals in products like shampoos and detergents.

A void due to lack of true federal regulation has allowed EnviroTech to promote nPB as “green,” using supposed peer reviewed research to back its claims. However, nPB producer EnviroTech played a large role in financially backing the studies. Although the EnviroTech backed study was written about and published in 2002 in the journal Applied Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, the journal violated its financial disclosure rules, failing to mention anywhere in the article EnviroTech’s role in funding the research. The New York Times also recently documented the extensive hazards of nPB, which does little to counter the many tales that EnviroTech spin via its paid researchers. Those researchers have worked for years to dilute the evidence regarding the high risks of nPB use.

Let us hope that an overhaul of the TSCA will better equip federal regulators to rein in the proliferation of toxic chemicals like nPB found in our workplaces.

Lawyer Hit with $500K Fine for Asking Client to Cleanup FaceBook Page

Plaintiff's FB photo wearing questionable t-shirt after losing wife in a car-truck collision.

Plaintiff’s FaceBook photo that his attorney tried to get deleted during discovery.

Over 1 billion people per month reportedly use Facebook. This is a number that Facebook claims. Not surprisingly, lawyers and law firms also use social media to dish up dirt on the other party. Usually an internet search on a party starts with Google, which quickly leads the investigator to find the subject’s Facebook page.

A Virginia lawyer was forced to pay $542,000  in sanction for “obstructionist” conduct when defense counsel specifically requested photographs from plaintiff Isaiah Holt’s Facebook page. Lester Holt and his late wife’s parents had filed a lawsuit against a concrete company. That case resulted in an $8.5-million award to Lester and the parents of Lester’s wife, Jessica.

Lester was driving west on a highway to take his wife to work June 21, 2007, when a truck filled with liquid concrete and traveling east crossed the centerline and tipped over onto the Lesters’ vehicle. Jessica Lester later died from her injuries.

Lester originally won $10 million in a wrongful death suit against a truck driver whose rig flipped, killing Lester’s wife Jessica on the road. Allied, the truck company, specifically requested printed copies of Lester’s Facebook page. Lester’s lawyer was likely concerned that the photo of Lester at a party (after his wife died) where he wore a t-shirt that said “I  love (represented by a heart) hot moms” suggested that Lester wasn’t too heartbroken over his wife’s death.

This is a cautionary tale on so many levels. One is that you never know who may have the right to access your social media. That party may then do whatever they can to distort the truth with the little information that they have.

WA Super Lawyers Latest Issue Spotlights Paul Stritmatter

Anyone who knows a bit about the law firm of Stritmatter Kessler knows that Paul Stritmatter is a legend for his legal battles.  He has made a name for himself by taking on important legal battles against big corporations. As a fearless leader of the award-winning PI firm, Paul has raised the bar for all plaintiffs attorneys in this country.  The publication, Washington Super Lawyers, recently features Paul in its latest issue.

The article discusses his achievements in an engaging manner. Indeed, as the writer explains, while Paul’s accomplishments are larger than life, he is one of the most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet. A fierce adversary, he’s got a heart of gold. Just as the article mentions, “… [Paul] has beSuper Lawyers-Picking Fights With Big Shots_Page_1en picking fights with big shots. And, he usually wins…”

If you’ve not already, find a few minutes to enjoy this well written article. You’ll get a glimpse of this local icon, who has helped shaped law on behalf of consumers in the Northwest and throughout the country.

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