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.
A young boy who loved to run and play now suffers spinal cord injuries after falling an unwrapped cord at a Bellevue, WA trampoline park. Now, he's learning how to walk and shower by himself all over again.
The lawsuit that his family has filed against Sky High Sports will be full of challenges for the plaintiffs, as the defendant points to the waiver that explicitly includes "known and unknown risks." "Flipping and running and bouncing off the wwalls is dangerous and can cause serious injury and must be done at the participant's own risk."
Courts typically uphold these types of waivers that are an important way for recreational facilities that host such activities to protect themselves.
Yet, the waiver has not deterred at least four other plaintiffs from filing law suits against the same trampoline park.
We will keep an eye on this one...
At Coyote Ridge a prisoner, Kenneth Smith, almost beat to death his cellmate, Scott McDonald. Smith had kept a cast iron smudge pot. used in some Native American rituals to burn incense and create smoke. However, the prison's policy requires inmates to register their religious beliefs to keep "sacred items" like smudge pots, rosaries, etc., which must meet approval.
With two previous convictions for a "most serious offense," why was Smith assigned to the same cell with McDonald, a "minimum custody offender," who was serving an eight year sentence for robbery?
Coyote Ridge had plenty of information about the danger that Smith could pose to his cell mates. After all, Smith had a history of violent behavior and had assaulted corrections staff, he had incited riotous behavior, and had previously possessed a homemade weapon.
In 1996, he was held at Clallam Bay Corrections Center and after a review by state officials, was determined as one who should be in a close custody unit. Two years later, after numerous assaults and some incidents of malicious mischief, another review resulted in a recommendation that he remain in maximum custody.
In 1998, Smith also threatened to kill a corrections officer. These are just a few details of Smith's history in prisons and correctional facilities.
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.
On December 14, 2006, the Chehalis River Bridge was not safe.
Its light poles had been ignored for years, left to rust. Their structural failure in a strong wind was inevitable. Had bridge inspectors looked, the rusting anchorage and bolts were there to be seen.
The inevitable results of the failure to inspect and to maintain the poles and anchorage were rust and structural deterioration, leaving a dangerously perilous condition for unsuspecting travelers who used the Chehalis River Bridge.
With 11 days until Christmas, Lacey Hicks drove to the South Shore Mall to buy presents. The route from Aberdeen includes the Chehalis River Bridge. As she headed south along the bridge, a huge light pole suddenly smashed through the roof and windshield of her car. The force was so great that the pole literally stopped her car in its tracks. She was trapped and badly injured. Her head had been struck by the pole-driven roof, and she went in and out of consciousness. The windshield had shattered, and there was glass everywhere. Her cheek was badly lacerated. Most importantly, the bridge pole had hit with such force that it broke her cervical spine, leaving her at risk of paralysis.
Innocent drivers and the occupants of their cars should never be subjected to a hazard of this magnitude.
Now State Rep. Brian Blake says that he's secured state funding to add more lights to the Chehalis River Bridge. As reported by the Daily World, the Mayor of Aberdeen, Bill Simpson was grateful to Rep. Blake for his persistence in getting the needed funding to make the bridge safer.
After Lacey's tragic incident on that bridge in 2006, the state removed 11 lights on the main bridge as well as three lights on the north side of the bridge. The most obvious lighting issues are on the south side of the bridge.
Lacey Hicks along with her attorneys at SKWC are thrilled that her case against the State and City of Aberdeen has made a difference.
The Washington State Patrol (WSP) has a statutory duty to disclose information and to annually publish statistical information about accidents. This is the Washington State Supreme Court ruling today in a 7-2 decision for Gendler v. Batiste (WSP Chief). Moreover, the WSP cannot demand plaintiff Mickey Gendler to agree that he would not sue them based on any information that they provide to him.
A few years ago, Mickey Gendler was riding his bike on the Montlake Bridge, and got his tire caught on one of the bridge's seams. Because of the cycling accident, Mickey sustained profound spinal injuries and was rendered a quadriplegic. Now, he requires constant assistance at home and cannot work full time.
Mr. Gendler sought information from WSP, when he had learned that other bicyclists were involved in accidents on the Montlake Bridge before. But the WSP conditioned any disclosure of accident reports and related files on Mr. Gendler's promise that he not sue the state with facts obtained from them. He refused to sign any such form that would waive his right to sue. Mickey stated:
... I also do not want to waive my right as a citizen to have access to these public records to promote my ability to become fully informed about the history of this bridge and about the conduct of [WSP] or agencies responsibles for providing a reasonably safe road.
Courts below the state Supreme Court had agreed with Gendler. Now finally, the Supreme Court finds that WSP cannot shield its state records from citizens simply because they were shared with the federal government. Rather, the WSP has a statutory duty to share such information when requested.
Justice Mary Fairhurst, writing for the majority, said that WSP could not hide behind claims that its information was inaccessible because it had been "deposited... in a forbidden DOT electronic database." To do so would "fly in the face of our well grounded principle that technology should enhance access to information that is necessary for justice, not create barriers."
SKWC is proud of this victory that our trial lawyers, Keith Kessler and Garth Jones, obtained on behalf of Mickey Gendler and for all those in the future who may seek information under the Public Records Act regarding information from WSP or other governmental agencies.
Firefighter Mark Jones fell 15 feet down the hole in the middle of a night in December 2003. He suffered traumatic brain injuries and a shattered pelvis. Many of his vertebrae were broken as were nearly all of his right ribs.
In 2010, a verdict awarded Jones almost $13 million for his disabilities, along with pain and suffering.
As the Seattle Times reported, today the City of Seattle appealed, saying among other things that it should have been allowed to present evidence at trial of Jones' prior alcohol use, even though he had not been drinking the night of the fall. An expert for the city speculated that Jones could have been disoriented by alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but the appeals court found that the trial judge was correct to bar that testimony from the trial.
The city's insurer secretly videotaped Jones allegedly dancing and chopping wood. Even had Jones been doing such things, the sad truth is that even disabled people can occasionally dance and chop wood. While virtually $13 million seems like a significant amount, constant medical treatment and daily living assistance can quickly add up over the course of several decads. Jones is now in his late 40's.
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.
According to Thomas Koepsell, MD, and colleagues at Univ. of WA, only about 3% of traumatic brain injuries were moderate, severe or fatal, among children in the larger Seattle metropolitan area.
Overall, the rate of traumatic brain injury in the region was more than 300 per 100,000 child-years, Koepsell and colleagues reported online in Pediatrics.
The findings are based on data on medically treated injuries collected during an 18-month period of surveillance in 2007 and 2008, the researchers said, noting that traumatic brain injury is a "significant cause of death, disability, and health care use among U.S. children."
Koepsell and colleagues found:
Knowing the extent and outcomes of such injuries, they added, would be useful to target and test prevention measures, among other things.
NOTE: This entry is republished from SKWCBrainInjury.com.
This past weekend the Spinal Cord Injury Association of Washington (SCIAW) held its first Walk & Roll at Green Lake Park in Seattle. Despite some blustery winds, the event was a huge success! Cristina Greig, the Walk & Roll Director worked tirelessly the past several months to pull off a carefully choreographed fundraiser for the fledgling SCIAW.
This event was an important one that will help fund an important organization that will serve as a resource for all of those affected by spinal cord injuries in Washington State.
Jesse Magana, an SKWC spinal cord injury client and SCIAW board member, spoke at the Walk & Roll, sharing some of his thoughts and expressing his love of those who helped him achieve justice (including Paul Whelan and former SKWC attorney, Peter O'Neill).
Thanks to Cristina, the hearty SCIAW volunteers, Nick and Hailey, many of the SKWC staff (you know who you are!), and the generous donors (including one of our favorite former Sonics, Detlef Schrempf)!
In case you missed the event, we'll keep you posted about our next one to occur in early 2012 (hint: it won't require you to don a thick coat & comfortable shoes). In the meantime, please donate to SCIAW. Every little bit helps. Make your checks out to "SCIAW" and mail them to ATTN: Cristina Greig, SCIAW Fundraising, 200 2nd Ave West, Seattle, WA 98199.
An article today on MSNBC is a reminder to all of us that over 5K young children fall out of windows every year. At SKWC, personal injury attorneys have handled a number of tragic cases, where a young child falls out of a window (see article about window falls.pdf).
For parent of children under 4, please remain extra vigilant. The MSNBC article points out that 2/3rds of the falls involve a toddler and that window screens are not enough to prevent dangerous falls.
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.
Just when you might have thought that NFL's woes were over with the end of its 136 day lockout, 75 players and some of their wives filed a lawsuit in L.A. last week for negligence, fraud, and liablity. In addition to NFL, Riddell, the well known helmet maker and the supplier of helmets to NFL, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Allegedly, NFL knew about the harmful effects of concussions as early as the 1920s, but intentionally hid related information from coaches, trainers, players and the public. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
As evidenced by comments on this story at MSNBC and other news sites, people are already likening this lawsuit to the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit. (Sadly, those drawing the parallel remain woefully ignorant by the so called "frivolous lawsuit" of the 79 year old woman Stella Liebeck, who sued McDonalds.)
Interestingly, the NFL created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee back in 1994, which studied the long term risk of long term brain injury to players. According to the complaint, the Committee published false and deceptive reports, to mislead the public along with Congress and the players.
In 2007 players received a pamphlet that pointed to the Committee’s research papers, stating, “Current research with professional athletes has not shown that having more than one or two concussions leads to permanent problems if each injury is treated properly.”
However, from the start of last season NFL players could read about how concussions could lead to depression and early onset of dementia, which “can change your life and your family’s life forever” from posters in every team’s locker room.
For many reasons, this lawsuit is one to watch.
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 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.
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.
By Karen Koehler
This blog entry was originally posted on SpinalCordInjuryLawBlog.com.
The call comes from an attorney friend in another state. He is looking for a workers’ comp lawyer in Washington. A man has fallen on the job and is now quadriplegic . I ask what happened. I talk to my partners. We decide there could be a case because “Stute” might apply. What is Stute? And why did we take the case – not as a worker’s comp case – but as a personal injury lawsuit.
Washington made a deal with injured workers when it enacted Title 51 of our State Code. If you are injured on the job as a result of the fault of your employer, you give up your right to sue. In exchange the Department of Labor & Industries will provide workers’ compensation benefits (with insurance premiums paid by employers). But there are exceptions
Sometimes a person injured on the job can bring a lawsuit for injuries. For example, a worker can sue someone if they weren’t employed by the same company.
There is also a major exception to the rule. It is called Stute.
In Stute, a general contractor (PBMC), hired a subcontractor (S&S Gutters) to install gutters and downspouts on a condominium construction project. Mr. Stute, an employee of S&S Gutters, slipped off a roof and was injured. PBMC knew that employees of S&S Gutters were working on the roof without any safety devices. The Washington Supreme Court ruled that “a general contractor has a duty to comply with all pertinent safety regulations with respect to every employee on the job site.”
This means, if you are working for a subcontractor on a project. And if you are injured because a safety violation has occurred. Then, you may be able to sue under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act of 1973. That act requires all employers to furnish to each of its employees a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious injury or death to their employees . “
In the case of our client, we filed a “Stute” lawsuit. The General Contractor confessed to not having any safety meetings, policy or procedures, or equipment for workers of the subcontractor. Ultimately their insurance company was required to pay for the worker’s injuries.
(This trial exhibit was of an on-the-job roof collapse that resulted in multiple orthopedic injuries including a spine injury).
By Keith L. Kessler
Yesterday AM, KUOW aired an uneven story about the fact that WA State has recently had to make large payouts in tort claims. The reporter, Austin Jenkins, opened his story with a brief description of a recent SKWC cases, which I handled: This was the case of Mickey Gendler, a lifelong cyclist and attorney, who was seriously injured in a bicycle accident in 2007.
Mr. Jenkins failed to mention that the State admitted that the $8 million award was justified.
When interviewed by a Seattle P-I reporter, the risk management director of WSDOT, John Milton said, "This was a catastrophic event to a very strong individual. This was the right thing to do for both Mr. Gendler and the taxpayer." [emphasis added]
When tragedy strikes an individual, in the form of an unpredictable accident, all of those responsible need to be held accountable. Even when one of those parties might be the State.
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.