Jessie Owen serves as an inspiration to all in this news story on KOMO News. Check it out and spread the word about our search for witnesses to the tragic incident.
Jessie Owen serves as an inspiration to all in this news story on KOMO News. Check it out and spread the word about our search for witnesses to the tragic incident.
On December 21, 2012, the Owens family were returning from a family trip. While they traveled on Highway 2 toward Leavenworth, a tree fell onto their SUV. Tim Owens and his wife, Cheryl, did not survive. Jessie, Jaime, and Steven (Jaime's husband) sustained serious injuries, although Jeremy Owen was fortunate to walk away from the accident.
Learn more about the heroism and strength of Jessie Owen and the rest of the Owen family at King5.com.
If you or someone you know witnessed the incident, please contact Karen Koehler, the attorney for Tim/Cheryl Owens at KarenK@stritmatter.com.
On December 21, 2012, the Owen family were returning from a family trip. While they traveled on Highway 2 toward Leavenworth, a tree fell onto their SUV. Tim Owen and his wife, Cheryl, did not survive. Jessie, Jaime, and Steven (Jaime's husband) sustained serious injuries, although Jeremy Owen was fortunate to walk away from the accident.
Learn more about the heroism and strength of Jessie Owen and the rest of the Owen family at King5.com.
If you or someone you know witnessed the incident, please contact Karen Koehler, the attorney for Tim/Cheryl Owen at KarenK@stritmatter.com.
I woke up early on the morning of July 17th to read news online about a horrendous car crash right near the Magnolia Bridge on Elliott Ave/15th Ave West. An SUV had crossed the center line and crashed head on into a Subaru. The driver of the Subaru was a woman in her 50's and was critically injured.
My heart ached for that woman driving the Subaru. She was probably just driving to work that Tues AM, when this Jeep veered from oncoming traffic into her car. I hoped she would be fine.
Because this was near our neighborhood, the thought then quickly flashed that this might affect my commute to work. I quickly dismissed it, as the multiple car collision occurred before 7 AM. Surely, the roads would be clear by 9 AM.
Boy was I wrong.
The roads were clogged in both directions on that major 6-lane road. While stuck on Elliott, I kept thinking about the woman, wondering whether she was surrounded by family. Could the collision have been so horrible, that hours later the road was still clogged from it?
Later that afternoon, I checked the news. Yes, the collision was tragic. The woman from the Subaru had died. In the evening, despite the fact that it was my birthday, my mind kept going back to that life lost. How shocked and grief stricken her family and loved ones must have been.
Then, a few days ago I saw an article in The Magnolia News with the photo (see right) of a letter someone had written to this woman. When reading the letter, I realized how many people were moved and saddened by her untimely death.
This is what the handwritten letter said:
You’ve stuck with me through the day. My partner woke me @ 6:30 saying he heard a car crash. I wanted to sleep but the roar of the news helicopters woke me. I saw the fire trucks from my window. The image of the jeep on its side, bleeding gas stayed with me. And then I saw the pics of your car online.
You didn’t know what would happen today. I am sad. It could have been any one of us, but it was you. I am so sorry.
I’ve been reflecting on how we drive in Seattle – preoccupied, we text, talk on the phone, run red lights, passive aggressively remourselness (sp?) through traffic trying to get somewhere important. We forget we’re driving heavy machines w/ the potential to kill. We forget we ALL have lives.
I’m sorry it took your death, but I intend to slow down, be aware & remember how much my actions affect others, and can do so to great detriment on the road.
Please rest in peace. Blessing to your soul, your family & friends.”
What D.R. says gives me pause: How often do we think about how lethal cars can be when we're driving them? Chatty toddlers, text messages, calls, etc. all keep us distracted while we drive these huge machines.
To honor that woman, I will try to remain mindful as possible when driving, and when out of the car I will try to appreciate every moment.
POST SCRIPT - I looked up the online version of this article and found a single comment from someone who knew the woman. Below is the comment republished from MagnoliaNews.net.
Her name was Rosemary. She was a registered nurse with a specialty in emergency room medicine. She worked tirelessly to 'mistake-proof' the delivery of medical care and maximize patient safety. Rosemary was a daughter. A sister. An aunt. A mentor. A friend.
Rosemary's trademarks were her smile her energy and passion around everything she did her smile her way of listening - really listening - that made you feel like nothing else existed in the world but what you were saying. And have I mentioned her smile?
Those of us who knew Rosemary are stunned and deeply saddened by her untimely, violent death. I don't know what happened (why was the jeep traveling so fast? why did the driver lose control?) but if it was an accident - a mistake - then Rosemary would have wanted to know why it happened. She would have narrowed her gaze and said, "we can do better than this." She would have wanted to know how it happened and how it could be prevented from ever happening again. And then she would have set her sights on making it so.
It's up to us now, as a community, to make that happen for her. For all of us.
D.R., your utility pole post made my eyes leak all over again. Thank you for your passion, and compassion. Hold tight to that always.
As of July 1, 2012, AAA will offer its Washington and Idaho members emergency roadside service for their bicycles. This benefit will cover AAA members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho as well as British Columbia.
Just like with AAA's roadside service for motor vehicles, this service assists members with a bicycle disabled because of a mechanical failure. A member would call the AAA hotline to obtain service. When assistance arrives, a member can be transported along with the bicylce to a safe location within the distance allowed by the membership level.
On its website, AAA's VP of Member Services for AAA Washington says, We are excited to extend our legendary emergency road service to bicycles. People who live in the Northwest are avid outdoors enthusiasts and have an affinity for cycling. We think our members will embrace this new service and have a new level of comfort as they travel long distances from home knowing that AAA will be there if their bicycle becomes disabled.”
Additional, AAA of WA offers new options for bicycle insurance.
This can only be good news to those many AAA members in WA State who also enjoy cycling. At SKWC, we often see bike accidents with severe injuries and lack of insurance coverage.
The following is reprinted from the King County Bar Bulletin, June 2012 issue.
"The Velvet Hammer" is a perfect moniker for Karen Koehler. Her disarmingly soft touch belies her tough-as-nails representation of wrongful death and catastrophically injured clients.
While raising three daughters (Cristina, Alysha and Noelle), Karen has managed to raise the bar as one of Washington's top trial lawyers. Her Oprah-style trial approach has earned her the recognition of her peers as a Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ).
Most recently, her 1½-year-old blog (KarenKoehlerBlog.com) catapulted to the top of the charts as the American Bar Association's No. 1 Trial Practice blog.
Karen is as technical as she is creative. Her logical German father is a retired UW professor of biological structure. Her intuitive Chinese mother is a retired general practice lawyer. They taught her to be proud of her mixed race and that it wasn't necessary to fit within a stereotype. As a result, Karen takes delight in challenging trial lawyer "norms."
"You can be serious and do a good job without having to take yourself too seriously," she says. She is on a personal quest to show the general public that "lawyers are real people too." This is what makes her blog so appealing to a large cross section of society.
"We lawyers are our own worst PR enemies," Karen says. "Look at the awful ads on everything from television to taxi cabs. The Internet is clogged with lawyer garbage. Our best hope is to stop adding to the caricature and humanize ourselves."
Karen obliges through her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, P'interest, and any other new social network device that her daughters learn and tell her about. She has changed the way the law firm of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio (SKWC) portrays itself - from the ads she conceptualizes to the booklets she shepherds through completion.
For the past decade, Karen has been writing trial diaries that reflect her love of courtroom drama and her desire to have fun - from the time she lost a shoe and wore flip flops while cross-examining a witness to the time the entire jury panel, judge, defense counsel and everyone else in the courtroom applauded her witness on a spinning bike. Her stories enthrall as much as they inform.
Justice Steven González admits with a chuckle, "While not in trial, I enjoy reading her blog." About what makes her interesting in the courtroom, he explains, "Karen is not afraid to disagree - whether it's with opposing counsel or with the court. Her arguments are excellent and make a good record effectively."
Another judge who also enjoys Karen's blogs and trial diaries when not presiding over one of her cases is Judge Richard McDermott. "Her trial diaries are a refreshingly candid account," he says. "While self-effacing, they are poignant and accurate. What a great tool she's provided for young lawyers."
In commenting about her as a trial lawyer and her courtroom presence, Judge McDermott says, "Karen is very special. When she's in the courtroom she looks like she wants to be there. Unlike too many attorneys, she's always well prepared."
Judge Mary Yu describes Karen as "an extraordinary trial lawyer; she is intuitive with jurors and creative with her presentation. I truly appreciated her sense of humor, intensity and willingness to experiment with me as we took one of her cases (a jury trial) up to Seattle University School of Law. The one word that comes to mind when I think of Karen is 'courageous.'"
Karen's energy level (she calls it her hyperactivity disorder) has shown no signs of waning over the years. (Does she ever sleep?) And in case you are interested, she is not shy about being "51 years alive."
Karen runs more than an hour every day, usually with her dog Nala. "It's how I meditate," she says. She manages a demanding caseload with SKWC and did so even when she recently served as WSAJ president. She frequently speaks around the country for trial lawyer associations and the American Association for Justice where she is also a board member.
She has been an adjunct professor of trial advocacy at the UW where she has taught for seven years with Bill Bailey. And, in 2010, she started the Female Trial Advocacy Program that offers classes through WSAJ.
In 2011, Karen wanted to make a difference outside of the legal arena. She created (with SKWC's significant support) and now serves as the president of the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Washington (SCIAW.org). SCIAW is a partner of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
Karen's daughter Cristina organized SCIAW's first large event, the Green Lake Walk and Roll, which raised over $11,000. The second Walk and Roll will be October 6 and is expected to be at least twice as big.
Karen's high-profile cases include:
Kime v. City of Seattle: The Kime case is well known by Seattle residents who were around in the early 2000s. Young Kris Kime was trying to help an innocent victim, who was being attacked during the Mardi Gras riots of 2001, when he himself was then beaten to death. Despite Kris's friends pleas to the police, who stood nearby, the officers complied with the mayor's orders to do nothing. Suing the city was a way to hold it accountable for decisions that led to avoidable death and injuries.
Ethel Adams v. Farmers Insurance Company: Michael Testa rammed his girlfriend's truck as he chased her down Aurora Avenue. The truck crossed the centerline where it flipped upside down on top of and head-on into Ethel Adams, almost killing her. Adams' insurance company, Farmers, decided not to pay the claim because road rage was not an "accident."
The public became outraged as media covered the lawsuit. The insurance commissioner threatened to shut Farmers down in Washington, at which point it changed its mind and paid on the policy. Adams then sued Farmers for bad faith. One year after Adams was hurt, the governor signed the "Ethel Adams Bill" into law - when an innocent person is injured in a car accident, the insurance company can no longer play the same word games.
Perez v. "Construction Company": SKWC, through Karen, Paul Stritmatter and Kevin Coluccio, brought a lawsuit on behalf of Candelario Perez and his three dependent children in the Eastern District of Washington in Spokane. In 2008, Perez was tightening barbed wire to a fence post when he fell backwards off a cliff in Eastern Washington, tumbling head over heels down a canyon wall. Perez became an instant quadriplegic.
For a year and a half the SKWC team battled with the general contractor, which had failed to provide any fall-protection safety. SKWC even went with all five of its experts to the cliff with proper safety gear. Exactly two years after Perez's tragic injury, the case settled for $7 million - the available policy limits.
Both the general and subcontractor are still in business and working together. But there is now a difference. Today, their workers attend regular safety meetings, minutes are kept, fall-protection gear is provided, and there is a fall-protection system in place.
Karen will be the first to say that she's not an island. She is still best friends with her former law partner Pat LePley. She credits the strength of the Stritmatter firm for helping her to blossom these past eight years. She has a picture of her paralegals Anne Roberson and John Meyers front and center on her desk because they "get it all done."
Her network of extended family and dear friends grounds her. Cristina, her eldest daughter, is on her way to Gonzaga University School of Law. Alysha, a junior at the UW, created and is president of UW Yogis - a 200-member group. Noelle has completed her freshman year and is heading to school in Nashville for a music business degree.
Karen Koehler personifies the new-era trial lawyer. She improves the image of our entire profession, while obtaining significant results for her clients as only "The Velvet Hammer" can.
Paul Stritmatter, a former Trial Lawyer of the Year and Champion of Justice, is a partner at Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio. Stritmatter's blog, FightSubro.com, is also quickly catching up with Koehler's personal blog in terms of readers. Catherine Fleming is an attorney at SKWC. She contributes regularly to the firm blog at pnwinjurylawadvocate.com.
Late last year, a California appeals court spoke out against cell phone use while driving. Yes, that means even when you've stopped at a red light.
Like in WA, CA drivers cannot talk on a non hands free phone when driving. Mr. Nelson was sitting at a stop light and flipped open his cell phone to make a call. Little did he realize that a cop had pulled up right next to him. As soon as Mr. Nelson realized this, he put the phone down. Ultimately, the cop ticketed Mr. Nelson. But Nelson argued that he shouldn't have gotten the ticket since the light hadn't even turned green before he stopped using his phone. The CA appellate court says, sorry Nelson, you lose. You can't hold a phone even when the light is red.
Starting last June in Washington State, police could pull over drivers just for holding a wireless devise while driving. New drivers with instruction permits or intermediate licenses aren't even allowed to use wireless devices at all, except in emergencies.
As mentioned on the WA DOL website, if you're driving on the freeway, you can travel more than the length of a football field in the time it takes to read a short text messgae or dial a number.
Some quick facts about cell phone use while driving.
- 6,000 people -- equal to the total citizens of Pierce County's City of Steilacoom, were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2008.
- 500,000 people were injured in 2008 because of distracted driving.
- A driver talking on a cell phone is as impaired as a driver with a 0.08 blood alcohol level.
- A driver texting is as impaired as a driver with a 0.16 blood-alcohol level. That's twice the legal limit.
- Drivers talking on cell phones are half a second slower to hit the brakes in emergencies and miss more than half the visual cues seen by attentive drivers.
Make it a policy to just keep your hands off your phone when you're in the car. Please don't be tempted to text/call someone on your cell while driving. You might just prevent a serious car accident/injury.
I admit it. Sometimes I switch lanes without turning on my signal. Why? Well, I look around and see that no one is behind me, so why bother. But reading about a new study from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) opened my eyes. Turn signals matter, so keep that habit of using them even if you think no one is around.
As reported by an MSNBC article, neglect in using turn signals accounts for a whopping 2 million accidents each year. That's far worse than the numbers for distracted driving (950K accidents per year). The SEA study indicates that 48$ of drivers either don't ever use their turn signals or fail to turn them off after turning/switching lanes.
SKWC attorneys represent clients injured or killed as the result of serious car crashes that involve failure to use a turn signal when changing lanes or turning. Save yourself the distinct possibility of getting into an accident. Make it a habit to always use your turn signals and remember to turn them off, after you've used them.
The Seattle PI recently reported about a bill that the WA State legislature just passed, which will stiffen sentences for defendants charged with DUI and vehicular homicide.
Drunk drivers kill approximately 250 people every year in Washington, according to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg's office.
The state Senate recently joined the House in passing House Bill 2216, which increases the standard prison sentence for the crime of vehicular homicide by DUI.
The bill increases the prison range for a first time offender to six to eight years in prison, the same sentence an individual faces for committing first-degree manslaughter. Currently the prison range is two to three years.
The bill becomes law 90 days from the end of the legislative session.
More support for the bill came after the death of Stephen Lacey, the Google engineer who was killed by a drunken driver last summer on his way to the Kirkland Costco. His killer who pounded his chest at the crash scene, Patrick Rexroat, could be out in less than three years with credit for good behavior.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg had made several attempts to get the vehicular homicide sentences toughened and spoke out several times since Lacey's death saying current laws are too soft on drunks that kill on the road.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist also was a strong supporter of House Bill 2216.
"One of the hardest things any prosecutor has to do," Satterberg said in 2011, "is sit down with a family like I did with Steve Lacey's family last month ... and say, 'Oh by the way, the offender – he'll be out in two years.'"
Tragically, another life ended last week in a senseless car-bicycle collision.
Bail was set at $500,000 in King County District Court in Seattle Friday for 26-year-old Nathan Jeremie Godwin of Redmond, arrested for suspicion of vehicular homicide in the death of a bicyclist early Thursday morning in the Totem Lake area in Kirkland. The deadline for a charging decision is Dec. 12.
The Seattle Times reported this weekend that Godwin has a prior conviction on drug-related charges and has previously been accused of reckless endangerment and other traffic-related crimes.
The bicyclist, Bradley J. Nakatani was killed early Thursday morning in the Totem Lake area. He was 36 years old. On Friday afternoon, friends gathered at a vigil for Nakatani to remember him as a hardworking engineer for the Redmond company Alstom Grid, and to spread the word about the dangers of driving while impaired.
Nakatani had been traveling westbound on Northeast 124th Street at about 2:50 a.m. and was turning south onto Slater Avenue Northeast, apparently heading home from work. Murray said the SUV was eastbound on 124th when it hit the bicyclist.
“He was probably killed instantly,” Murray said. “There was nothing aid (crews) could do, unfortunately.”
Murray said Kirkland Police have had contact with the SUV driver before.
“We know the suspect,” Murray said. “He’s familiar to us from past contacts."
Godwin was first taken to Evergreen Hospital, where a blood sample was taken for a blood alcohol test, and then to the Kirkland Police station at City Hall.
Murray said Nakatani was an experienced rider who wore reflective clothing and had a light on his bike. “I think he even had a light on his helmet,” Murray said.
Northeast 124th is a busy arterial that provides access from the east and west to Interstate 405 at Totem Lake. The intersection where the accident occurred is east of 405 at a major intersection with Slater Avenue on the south and 132nd Avenue Northeast on the north, just west of the Kirkland/Redmond border.
NOTE: This entry was republished from SKWCBikeLaw.com's blog.
New report shows hypocrisy of Institute for Legal Reform's corporate board members that aggressively litigate while blocking justice for everyday Americans
Washington, D.C. --As the U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) holds its annual summit - a strategy session on eliminating Americans' access to the civil justice system - a new report exposes ILR's corporate board members that hypocritically use the courts for their own gain against competitors, customers and even each other.
In its newest report, Do As I Say, Not As I Sue, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) exposes the hypocrisy of 10 ILR board members that regularly use the legal system to advance their own agendas, while at the same time advocating legislation that would close the courthouse doors to anyone who would hold them accountable for their own wrongdoing.
"These corporations, like all Americans, have a right to seek justice through the legal system," said AAJ President Gary M. Paul. "What makes their actions shameful and hypocritical is that these companies are members of ILR's board for the sole purpose of denying American workers and consumers this same right."
One ILR board member highlighted in the report is Honeywell International, which has regularly taken competitors to court, but would prefer not to be held accountable for distributing defective body armor to law enforcement personnel across the country, or downplaying the dangers of asbestos exposure.
In return for its financial contributions to ILR, Honeywell has received policy and public relations help when its negligence has been uncovered. Four days after an Illinois jury delivered a multi-million dollar verdict against Honeywell for conspiring to hide the dangers of asbestos, ILR issued a press release stating that the decision "confirms a troubling trend in the State of Illinois where there is a hostile ligation environment." Additionally, the Madison County Record, an Illinois-based propaganda-as-news outlet fully owned by ILR, featured an article headlined, "McLean County Continues Inching Closer to Becoming a 'Judicial Hellhole.'"
The irony does not stop with Honeywell - AAJ's report also highlights the litigation hypocrisy of ILR board members FedEx, Dow Chemical Company, General Motors Corporation, Caterpillar, State Farm, Koch Industries, Abbott Laboratories, Prudential and Johnson & Johnson.
Online ads will run this week on major news sites and blogs to promote the report, Do As I Say, Not As I Sue: Exposing the Lawsuit-Happy Hypocrites of U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform, which can be found at www.justice.org/USChamber.
Yesterday's article in the Seattle Times reported the sad fact that already 12 cyclists have lost their lives in Washington State this year. This is despite the fact that the League of American Cyclists ranked our state first in safety programs.
This past weekend, a bicyclist died near the University of Washington campus. A car turning left collided into 23 year old Robert Townsend, who was riding his bike downhill on Univ. Way NE on the night of Sept. 10th.
Cascade Bicycle Club held a a news conference today, addressing a need for infrastructure improvements and a stronger community among motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
According to the Seattle Times article, despite the recent bicycle fatalities, commuters on bikes seem undeterred.
For those driving, please remember to look for bicycles, even when you might least expect them. Keep your cell phones off, while you keep a closer eye on all that is around you on the road.
Yesterday's Seattle Times article indicated that over 70 boaters in Lake Washington were arrested this Sunday for boating under the influence (BUI). This story is a sad reminder of the many clients that we see come through our doors at SKWC, whose injuries or loved one's death resulted from a senseless boating incident. We have handled a number of cases involving drivers of boats, who have been drunk or on drugs and killed/injured passengers or others in the waterway.
When on the waters, boaters may forget how lethal their boats can be when their judgment is compromised due to alcohol or some other substance.
To anyone who ever navigates the waters, remember that it's extremely dangerous to drive a boat while drunk. In fact, it's as bad if not worse than driving on a roadway, which is a solid surface with lanes of travel, signage and lights.
If you like to ride your bike in Seattle, you had better take heed.
Earlier this morning, another Seattle bicyclist was injured by a hit and run driver. Luckily, that cyclist should survive his injuries.
But, as an article in today's Seattle Times points out, three of the four recent bicycle-related incidents have been fatal. This past Thursday, a cyclist was fatally injured in Renton. A little over a week ago, PATH photographer, 44 year old Mike Wang was killed while riding his bike in the South Lake Union area.
In late July, a 49-year old man was killed in Kirkland.
As a driver, please remember to observe everyone around you, including cyclists and pedestrians. Too often, we see new bike injury clients seriously injured because a driver was texting or was simply inattentive.
NOTE: This blog entry is republished from SKWCBikeLaw.com's blog.
A little over 75% of all drivers are interested in "mobile health solutions," according to a Harris Interactive CTIA survey. Major car manufacturers, such as GM and Ford, are homing in on the idea that consumers are more likely to buy a car, if it can monitor a driver's diabetes or heart rate.
GM began offering healthcare instruction via its OnStar system. Not a bad idea, given that twenty-six million Americans are now afflicted with diabetes. With the latest technological innovations, diabetics, young and old, can benefit from a car that alerts the driver if her blood sugar is too low -- preventing potentially catastrophic accidents.
Ford's Sync (developed with Microsoft) offers mobile health monitoring and has supposedly helped to increase its average sale by $4100 per unit from a couple of years ago. Soon, new Ford drivers may literally hear a new tune and get incoming calls intercepted, if the car recognizes that the driver's heart rate has elevated too much. The last things that stressed out drivers need are phone calls coming in on their cell phones. However, mellow music may be just the ticket, to de-stress in a hectic commute.
According to Bryan Reimer, a researcher at M.I.T.'s AgeLab, "“Biometrics could play an integral role in the future of driving.” So much for marveling at the fact that my car's DVD player can keep my toddler content on long drives...
This weekend I got to see my last movie at the Seattle International Film Festival. It was "Hot Coffee," a documentary by Susan Saladoff. It made me incredibly proud to be in this profession and to work with some of the best trial lawyers in the country.
The movie is an absolute must-see. Period. Full stop. When the DVD comes out (later this summer), run, don't walk to buy it. Better yet, you can see it if you have HBO later this month. It is not a dry, boring documentary: Al Franken and Paul Grisham keep things lively.
Although I work for a plaintiffs law firm, even I had misconceptions about the infamous "hot coffee" lawsuit against McDonalds. This documentary, however, is not just about opening everyone's eyes to the jaw dropping injuries that Stella Liebeck, the then 79-year old woman sustained from spilling some scalding hot coffee on herself. It reveals how McDonalds had previously received 700 complaints about the ridiculously hot coffee.
Moreover, the film shows how corporations have spent many hundreds of million dollars on distorting the truth about tort claims -- from "tort reform" to caps on damages. Trial lawyers are conveniently pegged as the villains, while insurance companies are portrayed as the victims: a comedy and utter tragedy at the same time.
A doctor specializing in burn injuries explains in "Hot Coffee," that the holding temperature for coffee was so hot that at best, if the coffee touched one's skin for a few seconds, one would suffer 3rd degree burns. Regardless, McDonalds chose to ignore the obvious threat to its customers' safety until brave Ms. Liebeck attempted to hold them accountable.
The film also features a couple of other poignant stories: One, about an ex-Halliburton worker who was brutally raped by her coworkers in Iraq; but denied the ability to sue her employer/employees thanks to a mandatory arbitration clause. The other story is a needlessly tragic situation, where one twin boy was brain damaged in utero, because of a negligent doctor. That family was essentially robbed of the jury verdict due to the state's cap on damages.
Buy this DVD for all of your friends, family, neighbors, etc., so that they learn how corporations are attempting to dismantle the civil justice system.
Earlier this week, Senate Bill 5326. which increases the penalties for negligent driving, was signed into law.
Now, negligent drivers, who seriously injure or kill a cyclist, will face much harsher consequences. Thank goodness, is undoubtedly the response of many of our clients and their family members, when they learn about this. SKWC handles numerous cases, where negligent driving results in seriously injured or killed cyclists.
One SKWC bicycle injury client, a UW medical student, was riding his bicycle safely with a helmet, but when a vehicle made an illegal left turn in front of him, he did not have a chance. After his bike collided into the offending vehicle, the force of the crash threw him violently to the pavement. He suffered traumatic brain injury, a broken femur, and facial lacerations.
Another SKWC client was tragically killed at 14 years old, when a Pierce County police car hit him. In that case, the young boy was riding his bicycle lawfully with his friend.
The police officer did not have his siren on, and looked down to adjust his radio. But when he looked back at the road, the officer saw the two children on bicycles. The officer was traveling at about 50 mph and had no time to stop or avoid hitting the young boys. He began to brake as soon as he could to bring the car to a stop.
Time will tell how this new law will affect cases, where law enforcement agents are found negligent.
The bill's main sponsor, Sen. Adam Kline (D-Seattle) explains, "A small fine is not a stiff enough penalty for killing or seriously injuring someone due to negligent driving. This bill puts reasonable expectations on motorists to pay attention to bicyclists and other non-automobile users of the roadway, and will help provide some sense of justice to families who have lost loved ones.”
This blog entry is republished from SKWCBikeLaw's blog.
Earlier today, the Seattle Times reported a story about a seriously injured client of Stritmatter Kessler, who settled with the City of Seattle Police Department. Officer John Welch had been driving too fast for the icy road conditions on Feb. 11, 2009. Welch was not driving to any emergency call. As a result, Mr. Meyers sustained profound injuries to his chest, back, abdomen, and neck.
The article includes the important fact that the "City of Seattle concedes it is liable for any damages or injuries" that Welch sustained in the crash. This is what Senior Assistant City Attorney Robin Collins admits in a March 2010 court document.
Also significant is the extent and the gravity of Mr. Meyer's injuries. Despite that he was a model patient and followed all of his doctors' orders, he continues to experience ongoing medical issues.
Because the City of Seattle accepted responsibility, it will hopefully put measures in place as to training and procedure standards for all of its officers, so that it can avoid this type of tragic incident.
Please check back for more details about the details of this case and Kevin Coluccio's comments.
Check out the updated SKWC Bike Law site, which focuses on our work specific to bicycle-related injuries.
For decades, SKWC attorneys have represented injured bicyclists with great success. In fact, about 40 years ago, SKWC obtained the largest personal injury jury award in Grays Harbor County's history at that time. This history-making verdict was for Foster v. Bylund for $60,000 in Grays Harbor County Superior Court (1971). A 12-year-old bicyclist had seriously injured her leg.
Bicycle injuries are often much more serious than accidents where only cars are involved. SKWC bicycle accident lawyers are sought after because of their long string of successes. Most recently the case involving a cyclist, Mickey Gendler, who was catastrophically injured on the Montlake Bridge, has garnered much attention from the media. The $8 million settlement was the highest payout since 2003 by the State of Washington.
Most people who would have been injured like Marissa Schneider, would have died. That she survived was a miracle. Unfortunately doctors believed she would remain in a "vegetative state" for the rest of her life. Paul Stritmatter, Peter O'Neil and I worked on the case and got to know Marissa's loving family.
Mainly because of her angel of a mother, Marissa has made huge progress against all odds. Though she continues to need 24 hour care in a nursing home, her quality of life has improved. King 5 did an inspirational followup news story on Marissa and Cindy.
I still keep in touch with the Schneiders thanks to facebook. Another accident anniversary date has passed. Cindy and I were talking about one remaining open wound. The young woman who crossed the centerline and hit Marissa, was her same age. She has gone on to college and is living a normal life. To this day, neither she nor her family have ever contacted the Schneiders to simply say: "I'm sorry."
In case you missed it, an insightful editorial appeared in this Sunday's The Columbian, "Courts keep failures by state agencies in check." Magana and Wieland point out the serous problems with endorsing special legal protections for state government agencies whose negligent actions or inactions cause harm to citizens.
Importantly, Magana and Wieland explain that "government is never responsible for anyone’s actions but its own, and is never judged on any failures or bad choices except for its own." Only if "but for" the government's failures did an injury arise, then it could it then be held liable.
Please read the piece in its entirety for a thoughtful and accurate explanation to understand why we must continue to hold the government accountable via lawsuits in Washington state.
In the interest of full disclosure, one of the authors of this editorial is Jesse Magana, a client of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio.
Hailey's Law is named after a woman who was almost killed. A a drunk crossed the center line and plowed into her AFTER already being pulled over once that night. The drunk - Janine Parker - called a cab who took her back to her car.
Hailey's law is being considered by our legislature. If it passes, drunk drivers' cars would be impounded for a mandatory 12 hours after their arrest.
People against the law complain that towing and impound charges would have to be paid by the driver. But payment of such a small and deserving price, would have spared Hailey 15 surgeries.
Celebrity DUI mug shots seem to be gaining popularity. But there's nothing glamorous about causing an accident and killing or maiming an innocent person. Contact your representative and urge them to pass this bill.
It's easy for someone to prove if you were on a cell phone at the time of a collision or other tragedy. Your phone records can be subpoenaed.
We have represented many people who were critically injured when they were crashed into by distracted drivers. From interstate truck drivers to grandmothers in old sedans, we have subpoenaed their telephone carriers and tracked down when they were on the phone.
But distraction can go both ways. Last year we tried the case of a young girl and her friend who were struck while they were inside of a marked crosswalk. Both of them had been using their cell phones when walking up to the crosswalk. One was still on her phone when she entered the crosswalk the other was not. Even though they had the legal right of way, the defendant spent the entire trial blaming them for not paying attention as they crossed the street. Fortunately, the jury only found the girls fifteen percent at fault. The driver was responsible for all the rest.
The best way to use cell phones safely when walking or driving - is not to use them at all. Carriers are developing new technology to build in safety features for the distracted user. If turning them off is too extreme for you, we suggest these tips:
In Washington, it is against the law to talk on the phone in the car unless with a hands free set up. Texting while driving is not permitted.
As we head into this year's first legislative session, the law firm of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio (SKWC) wants to provide an informational resources via a new website, KeepWASafe.com. As the days and weeks progress, please visit it frequently for more information, which will help you understand why the agenda to bar lawsuits against the state for tort cases will make Washington less safer for all of us.
We welcome your comments and questions.
The jury is very upset. The truck driver admits he was drunk during the crash. He almost killed the plaintiff. At the end of the civil trial the judge instructs the jury on the law. They cannot punish the driver. Their verdict is to be exactly the same amount as if he had been sober. Not one single penny more.
Washington is one of only four states in America that does not allow punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to deter or reform corporations, the government, and certain individuals. They are included in a verdict if the behavior is really bad. Here is a hypothetical example.
A drug company may choose to sell a product, even though it knows that it may be dangerous. It may decide that a few people dying is a risk that makes sense financially. In 46 states, a jury can enter a verdict that would send a deterent message to the corporation. One week's profit for that drug - which could be several million dollars. That might make them think twice before putting bad drugs in the marketplace. But in Washington, a jury can enter a verdict only for the actual loss of the person's life. The drug company can't be taught a lesson.
It is confusing when we read about big punitive damage verdicts in other states and think that can happen here. It can't.
By Karen Koehler
The grandfather bought a used car from a man who was happy to be rid of it. The grandfather started driving it home, but the old jalopy began to lose power when he was on the freeway. He thought he could make it to the next exit, but the car was dying. Fortunately, there was space to pull it over just before it gave its last gasp.
When two roads merge or split, they create a triangular piece of land known as a “gore point.” The triangles are then marked off with stripes or chevrons (v-shaped patterns). In most states including Washington, it is unlawful for you to leave your lane prematurely and drive through a gore point. This is commonly seen during rush hour traffic, when impatient drivers cut across the white lines to enter the new stretch of freeway without having to continue to wait in line for traffic to merge. The gore points are considered non-travelled portions of the roadway. They are often called safety zones.
The grandfather sat in his car in the gore point and wondered what to do. The car had no power at all. Nothing worked, not even the emergency flashers. He decided to just sit tight and wait for help.
In a nearby building, a detective had just completed filling out paperwork and was happy to head home for the day. He got into his unmarked squad car, went down the road and entered the onramp to I-5. As he accelerated he began to merge left onto the freeway. But he cut right through the middle of the gore point. The detective didn’t see the grandfather sitting in the dark dead car until he was right upon it. His car slammed into it at tremendous force, crumpling it like a stepped on soda can. Though the grandfather survived the impact, he never recovered and passed away in the hospital.
SKWC represented the grandfather’s children in a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department. The case settled because the detective’s actions clearly violated state law. But the children weren’t the only ones who suffered from this collision. The detective had to take a leave of absence due to the trauma of unintentionally taking the grandfather’s life.
Now that you know what a gore point is, please don’t ever drive through one.
By Karen Koehler
In the evening of October 5, 2006, you have a few drinks and smoke a bowl of marijuana. The next morning you get up early for your new job driving a truck for a window company. What better way for you to start your day, than to smoke another bowl as you are walking out the door. In fact, you like this routine so much that you start off every morning this way.
You get to work, get in your truck and head out. In the middle of making deliveries, you decide to turn around. You are on highway 99 and make a left turn intending to go around the block. All of a sudden, your truck feels like it’s been struck by a bomb. It lurches forward. And you sit in your seat thinking. Uh Oh.
You are scared to get out of your truck. You have a pretty good idea what you’re going to see when you do. You sit in your seat and get up the nerve to call your boss. By now you can see other people rushing around and assume someone else has called 911. Time seems to take forever and you don’t know how long you sit there. Eventually you get out of your truck, walk around the right front end and stand there, looking down the length of it. You can see the people huddling around something that looks like the back of a car. The front of it is under the truck.
You don’t walk up to see if you can help. You don’t want to see whatever is in that wrecked red pile of shredded metal. You stay right where you are until you can hear the sirens. You back away. Away from the dread of knowing that there is someone half under your truck. You can barely see his outline. And that’s the last time you ever see Marc Maislen.
Years pass, and it is April 2010 and you are in court. Mr. Maislen has sued you. The company’s insurance company does not offer enough to settle the case. You are facing a full jury trial. The insurance company at first tried to claim that Mr. Maislen was at fault. For years, they denied that you were responsible. Even though you gave the police your pot and pipe that were in your coat pocket. Even though you admitted that you were high. Even though you were convicted of a crime and went to jail. The insurance company tried to blame him. Until a few months before trial. They decided they better admit fault. They told the judge they would agree you caused the wreck. But they also wanted to keep the jury from ever knowing that you were high.
Juries are almost never told when a defendant is drunk or high so long as they admit fault. But this case is different. Mr. Maislen has post traumatic stress disorder. Knowing that you were high when you almost killed him, has made him more fearful of driving. It caused him panic attacks. Judge Gonzales rules the jury needs to know the reasons why Mr. Maislen claims an injury, since your insurance company is fighting this. And so on the first day of trial, the jury is told of your behavior.
Your insurance company is very upset. They cannot believe the jury is being told you were high. This almost never happens. Instead of being able to have the jury look suspiciously at Mr. Maislen for bringing a lawsuit. They are looking at you.
Over the next several weeks, Mr. Maislen’s attorneys Karen Koehler and Mimy Bailey tell the jury the story of Mr. Maislen’s life. All the bones and joints that were broken, the nerves that were blown away, the traumtic brain injury, and the emotional injuries. Mr. Maislen was beloved by many. Over thirty witnesses testify for him. The insurance company hires experts to minimize Mr. Maislen’s claims. But at the end of the day, the jury has the final say. And they say that Mr. Maislen deserves a verdict for full justice.