Wrongful Death

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.

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.

How can we learn from Seattle bike accidents?

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

How can we learn from another Seattle bike accident? The one that occurred earlier this month resulted in life threatening injuries to a 26 year old cyclist, when a Metro trolley bus hit him.

Investigators are still looking into the details of the cause. However, anyone who knows the area–Rainier Ave S and South Jackson, can probably guess what likely occurred. Cyclists familiar with that stretch of road know that there are streetcar tracks. These tracks can wreak havoc with cyclists who want to cross over or ride alongside them. (Again, the exact details of the May 4, 2015 accident are still under investigation.)

Here’s a suggestion: How about some warning signs to both bus drivers and cyclists? There were reportedly some close calls before this horrendous accident. How about painting that part of the road to alert cyclists?

At our firm, well known bike injury attorney Keith L. Kessler has presented on some of the cyclist hazards of road design (Here is one of his more recent presentations Bicycle Litigation Strategy – Roadway Safety Cases).  Recall the Gendler case (one of the largest recent settlements against the State): Our firm represented injured cyclist, Mickey Gendler, whose bike tire got caught on a seam on the Montlake Bridge. Note that the State had known about this hazard to bicyclists for years before this tragic accident. One would hope that these types of accidents would serve as red flags to road designers/engineers who know if cyclists will frequent a route that is shared with cars and street cars/trolleys. If we truly want to live up to being one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, let’s walk the walk.

NOTE: This blog post was originally published in SKWBikeLaw blog.

 

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.

Pedestrians and cyclists: Staying visible when sun goes down

Increase your safety by wearing high visibility reflective gear.

Increase your safety by wearing high visibility reflective gear.

Some of our firm’s most tragic cases result from nighttime accidents. Once the sun goes down, a lawful pedestrian or bicyclist might not realize how invisible they are to a drunk or inattentive driver. Cars kill more than 5,000 pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers each year. The lion’s share of those accidents occur after the sun sets. But those who enjoy an evening stroll, run or bike ride need to know that not all reflective gear are equal.

Consumer Reports tested several types of reflective gear: jackets, bike shirts, and an inexpensive safety vest. A Betabrand shirt with reflective thread was marketed as easy to spot. However, in a recent Consumer Reports test, the shirt wasn’t visible from 300 feet. This is the distance for a car to stop in time, if the driver is traveling at 60 miles per hour.

To stay safe in the night, one needs to wear gear that is highly visible in the front as well as the back. The more reflective, the better. While the $180 Gore Phantom Windstopper soft-shell jacket is easy to see coming and going, it didn’t outperform the Uline safety vest, with its big, bright strips. The Uline option is much less expensive, about $15 at uline.com.

To increase your visibility, consider donning a reflective ankle band or wristband. According to Consumer Reports, these are highly visible from 300 feet. When you’re moving your legs and arms up and down, it’s hard to miss you from a distance.

Finally, don’t pooh-pooh some of the lowest cost options like iron-on reflective tape. Iron on this tape onto your own and your kids’ backpacks, hoodies, and caps to gain a little more peace of mind. Taking these extra steps, while staying clear of the road whenever possible, can only help prevent a needless tragedy.

SKW filed lawsuit against Olympus, scope-maker, in Seattle

SKW attorneys filed lawsuit against Olympus, duodenoscope maker

SKW attorneys filed lawsuit against Olympus, duodenoscope maker, for wrongful death of 53 yr old patient. (Photo: CBS News)

Weeks ago, Stritmatter Kessler Whelan attorneys filed a lawsuit in Seattle for a patient, Lisa Miller, who died following a procedure where doctors used an Olympus TJF-Q180V duodenoscope at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. Today, an article appeared in Seattle Times that reports how Olympus issued warnings as far back as January 2013 to hospitals in Europe about the potential for infection when using the exact same scope.


The sealed elevator wire channel in the specialized endoscope is now linked to CRE superbug infections in patients around the country. Reports were made public regarding infections linked to the device in Seattle, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Patients died in both Seattle and Los Angeles – the infections have a mortality rate as high as 50 percent due to their antibiotic resistance.

To review your potential case related to a serious injury or death linked to an Olympus scope procedure, please contact us at 206.448.1777 and ask for Karen Koehler or Catherine Fleming.

For additional information, please read our previous blog posts and these Seattle Times articles:

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.

Manufacturer of dangerous Trinity ET Plus guardrails ordered to unseal entire court files

An image from the Harman v. Trinity complaint. (Courtesy credit: PublicJustice.net)

An image from the Harman v. Trinity complaint. (Courtesy credit: PublicJustice.net)

Yesterday, a court order to unseal the entire court file in the massive whistleblower case against Trinity Guardrails (maker of now infamous ET Plus guardrails) will likely save many lives. This file contains literally hundreds of sealed pleadings and exhibits relating to a dangerous highway guardrail that’s been linked to dozens of deaths and injuries.  The court also held that all of the testimony and exhibits from a recent trial of the case must also remain open to the public, effective immediately.

Below is an excerpt from the Public Justice website*:

The [court order to unseal all of the files for public access] is so important in this case. A major highway guardrail manufacturer, Trinity, will not be able to hide the fact that it kept its changed guardrail design from the federal government and that that guardrail design is unsafe. The victory also means that the public has access to facts that will be critical for making the case that the federal government should withdraw its approval of these guardrails. And it’s ammunition for states seeking to phase out and remove these lethal guardrails from our highways.

Trinity was sued for defrauding the federal government by changing the design of its guardrail end terminals, not conducting appropriate crash tests on the new design, and not telling the federal government about the changes—meaning that the guardrails remained on the Federal Highway Administration’s list of approved guardrails. A jury found that Trinity defrauded the government to the tune of $175 million.

Because of the design change, when the terminal is hit by a car, instead of absorbing the energy of the crash and slowing the vehicle, the guardrail jams and turns into a potentially lethal spear. Drivers and their passengers have been decapitated, their limbs have been severed, and they have been stabbed by these guardrails. A study by Public Justice client, The Safety Institute found that the redesigned Trinity guardrail was 2.86 to 3.95 times more likely to be involved in a lethal accident and 1.36 to 1.95 times more likely to be involved in an accident with serious injury than Trinity’s older design.

In the case against Trinity, huge swaths of court records—including crash test documents—were filed under seal. On behalf of The Safety Institute and the Center for Auto Safety, consumer protection attorneys sought to intervene to unseal the records. Although our motion to intervene was denied, our efforts to unseal the records helped to convince the court to do the right thing.

*NOTE: Stritmatter Kessler Whelan partner Brad J. Moore currently serves as President Elect of Public Justice, the country’s largest public interest law firm.

 

 

Could the FDA have done more?

 

Ms. Bigler lost her husband and only learned about the superbug outbreak at Virginia Mason from the news. (Photo:  Steve Ringman/Seattle Times)

Ms. Bigler lost her husband and only learned about the superbug outbreak at Virginia Mason from the news. (Photo: Steve Ringman/Seattle Times)

 

As potential clients continue to call our firm, more details about what the FDA knew and didn’t do with its knowledge continue to surface. When I first learned about the “dirty duodenescope” problem at Seattle’s Virginia Mason, I wondered how much information that the FDA had regarding these duodenescopes used for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedures. Then, when the latest news broke about the UCLA Medical Facility’s similar issues with improperly cleaned duodenescopes, I realized that this issue extends well beyond just a couple of medical facilities. The problem relates to the fact that these thin, flexible scopes are extraordinarily difficult to clean. Even UCLA’s latest announcement of using a toxic gas to clean these duodenescopes are doubtful per the FDA. This begs the question, then, why hasn’t the FDA done more to ensure that devices are not used until a more practicable ways to clean the device are identified?

Now, remember when Obama signed an Executive Order last fall to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria? I do. So do some federal lawmakers, who are now asking Congress to investigate what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and device makers are doing to prevent further patient deaths and infections. Earlier this week, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) sent a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, pointing out that outbreaks related to contaminated medical scopes “have national security ramifications.”

In an LA Times interview, Rep. Lieu reminded us of Obama’ executive order, issued this past September that made it a national security priority to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as CRE (which stands for Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae). The California congressman pointed out that an FDA safety alert issued last week post the UCLA incident does not give the public assurance that further outbreaks can be prevented, “While federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are combating superbugs, the current recommended sterilization procedures would continue to result in superbug outbreaks and deaths.”

The FDA acknowledged that cleaning the ERCP duodenoscopes to the manufacturers’ specifications may not remove all of the deadly bacteria that can be passed from patient to patient.

In the meantime, family members of Virginia Mason patients who now know about the link between these ERCP procedures and the recent superbug outbreak are asking important questions. For example, the Biglers’ heartbreaking story came out last week in the Seattle Times. Mr. Rick Bigler, a 57 years old insurance exec, was suffering from pancreatic cancer. Only after his wife, Theresa, requested his medical records, did she find out that he had suffered from an E.coli infection. As the Seattle Times article points out, ERCP procedures are linked to these types of infections. What is alarming is that the Seattle outbreak is the largest of its kind in the U.S.  But, unlike the UCLA Medical Facility, which was also recently reported to have similar issues with the superbug-dirty-duodenescope issue, Virginia Mason did not reach out to its patients. While UCLA had informed 180 individuals about the possible contamination, the Seattle medical facility insisted that its situation was somehow different because the outbreak apparently spanned over a larger period of time.

Understandably, family members of Virginia Mason patients who likely contracted the superbug, have many questions that they want answers to: Some of them have contacted our law firm, given SKW’s track record as renowned attorneys in the areas of products liability and medical negligence. If you have questions, we are interested in comparing your stories with the ones that we’ve already learned about. Email us at Counsel@Stritmatter.com or call us at 206.448.1777.

If it is easier, simply complete the following form:  [contact-form to=’Counsel@stritmatter.com’ subject=’Possible Case RE: Superbug Infection’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Best Phone # To Reach You’ type=’text’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

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