News

September 10, 2014

E. coli case in Tacoma from a turkey sandwich

A 4 year old girl died from complications of an E. coli infection after suffering a stroke.  Serena Faith Profitt shared a turkey sandwich from an Otis, Oregon restaurant with a 5 year old boy, who is now in critical condition at a Tacoma hospital.

According to the CDC, foodborne illnesses affect 1 in 6 Americans each year.  While most are harmless, some forms of E. coli (Escherichia coli), such as those linked to recalls of ground beef, often lead to hospitalizations, and sometimes result in death.

Often times, restaurants can be held responsible for causing life-threatening illnesses, such as E. coli infections.  Contact an attorney who practices food safety and food borne illness law today.

You may ask yourself “Can I sue a restaurant for food poisoning?”  If you’re exhibiting symptoms of E. coli or salmonella and you believe it was caused by a restaurant or food manufacturer, you may be able to sue for damages.  Contact us for more information.

E. Coli Symptoms

The main symptoms of an E. coli O157:H7 infection are:

  • Bloody diarrhea.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Source: WebMD

Here is an article from the News Tribune with more information: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/09/09/3370944_boy-5-in-critical-condition-with.html
ABC News also covers the story: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/oregon-girl-dies-coli-friend-battles-bug/story?id=25412805

 

e. coli bacteria and fresh food

June 25, 2014

Seattle Archdiocese to Pay $12.125 Million to 30 Abuse Survivors

The Seattle Archdiocese has agreed to pay $12,125,000 to 30 men who allege it was responsible for sexual abuse they suffered as children at O’Dea High School, in Seattle, and Briscoe Memorial School, a former orphanage and boarding school in Kent, Washington.

The majority of claims were filed after two asset-holding corporations of the Congregation of Christian Brothers of Ireland, a Catholic religious order, filed for bankruptcy in April 2011.  The Christian Brothers operated O’Dea and Briscoe for decades, but both schools were owned by the Seattle Archdiocese.

In lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court, the men alleged both the Christian Brothers and the Seattle Archdiocese failed to protect them from known abusers.  Approximately ten cases had been filed against the Archdiocese at the time of the Christian Brothers bankruptcy, but that number tripled after the bankruptcy court ordered that notice be given to potential abuse survivors in Seattle.

According to Seattle sexual abuse attorney Michael T. Pfau, the settlement will put an end to an ugly chapter for the Archdiocese involving these two schools, and will help bring closure to both the Archdiocese and his clients:  “The Archdiocese, under the leadership of Archbishop Sartain, did the right thing and acknowledged the tremendous amount of pain and suffering that our clients, their families, and our community have endured.  This settlement is the first step in allowing all parties to focus on the future.  It also allows the Archdiocese to move beyond its partnership with the Christian Brothers, a relationship that led to the abuse of scores of children.”

In the past decade, Pfau and his law partner, Jason P. Amala, have settled more than 75 claims against the Christian Brothers and the Seattle Archdiocese for over $35 million.

During the litigation, Pfau and Amala uncovered dozens of records that illustrate the abuse problem that has plagued the Catholic Church.  For example, 11 of the men claimed they were sexually abused by former O’Dea teacher Edward Courtney, who court records show had been removed from four schools for abusing children before he was transferred to O’Dea.  Just a few months after arriving in Seattle in September 1974, one of the men complained to his older brother that Courtney had sexually abused him.  The complaint prompted the man’s older brother to meet with a vice principal of O’Dea who assured him the situation would be handled.  However, Courtney was not removed from O’Dea until 1978, even though records show O’Dea officials had continued to receive reports that he was sexually abusing children.

Another 5 of the men claimed they were sexually abused at O’Dea by former teacher G.A. Kealy, who students openly referred to as “Feely Kealy.”  In a 1963 letter, the O’Dea principal, Matt Popish, asked for Kealy to be transferred from O’Dea because of “the complaints parents had made to Bishop Gill about him.”  Popish noted “the Bishop suggested to me that it would be better for all concerned if he were not to be around.”  Two of the men alleged they had told Popish about the abuse, but claimed nothing was done to protect them or other students.

About half of the plaintiffs alleged they were abused at Briscoe, including a number who attended the school in the final years before it was sold in 1969.  In court pleadings, Pfau and Amala cited a 1966 letter where one of the Christian Brothers at Briscoe described the deplorable conditions at the school:

“Parents are often taken to Court for the very same neglect and abuse for which the school and the American Province have been guilty.  This damaging atmosphere has existed not only during the past year but in varying degrees during all the years that I have known the school.  It is not only far worse now, but has reached immoral and unethical limits.  It is my feeling that the Congregation’s conscience is guilty of social injustice, immoral practices, and lack of charity as regards Briscoe School.”

The men will also receive settlement funds from the Christian Brothers bankruptcy proceeding.  According to Amala, the bankruptcy resulted in the near liquidation of the Christian Brothers in North America:  “The bankruptcy plan required the Christian Brothers to liquidate the vast majority of their cash, property, and other assets, and to distribute the proceeds to abuse survivors.  They were allowed to keep just enough to take care of their older members who did not abuse children.”

The bankruptcy plan also required the Christian Brothers to implement a number of policies and procedures that are designed to protect children from sexual abuse.  The policies and procedures, which were drafted by a committee of abuse survivors, were the starting point of settlement negotiations in the bankruptcy.  According to Pfau:  “Our clients wanted to make sure history does not repeat itself.  They insisted we protect future generations in addition to holding the Christian Brothers accountable for what they suffered.”

News Coverage

June 17, 2014

PCVA Attorneys Named to 2014 Washington Super Lawyers and Rising Stars Lists

Super Lawyers and Rising Stars

We are pleased to announce and congratulate 8 of our attorneys who have been selected to Washington Law and Politics’ Super Lawyers and Rising Star lists.

Attorneys selected to Washington Super Lawyers in 2014

Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Attorneys selected to Washington Rising Stars in 2014

Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Congratulations, attorneys!

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

June 10, 2014

PCVA Files New Claims for Damages Caused by Oso Mudslide

Four victims of the Oso mudslide, including the mother of a 14 year-old boy killed at his family’s home, have filed tort claim forms with Snohomish County and the State of Washington for damages they suffered as a result of the March 22, 2014 tragedy at the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Randi Lester, the mother of Denver Harris, along with Robin Youngblood, Stephanie Murphy and Kane Conner have each filed the claim forms as required by law before a lawsuit can be brought against local and state government.  Under Washington law, a lawsuit against local and state government cannot be filed until 60 days after the tort claims are filed with government risk managers.

“The question these victims want answered is why?  Why were any lives lost when government officials clearly knew a significant risk existed for a catastrophic slide on that hillside?” said attorney Darrell Cochran who represents the four claimants.  “Why were new homes allowed to be built in the first place, and why weren’t home buyers made aware of the dangers and, at a bare minimum, given the information that would have allowed them to decide to live elsewhere?”

Harris was killed when the mudslide leveled his family’s home on Steelhead Drive.  Denver was a seventh-grader at Darrington Middle School.

Youngblood was at home, talking with a friend in her dining room, when the slide hit and carried her a quarter of a mile, trapped by flowing mud and water.   Youngblood’s daughter Murphy and her son-in-law Conner had left the house minutes earlier with their son Koltn when the slide came down.  The family lost everything in the disaster.

“The danger was known by people who had the authority and ability to do something about it.  Major slides in the 1950s and 60s.  Another major slide in 2006,” Cochran said.  “And yet, new homes were still being built after that and existing properties were being sold without a single word about the hazard just across the river.”

Oso Mudslide Arial View 2014-03-22

Making the situation even worse, according to Cochran, was the destabilization of the hillside
by logging just above the slide.  “Why did the State sign off on a single logging permit when it knew the trees on top were an essential part of the hillside’s stability?”  Cochran asked.

Cochran said the filing of the tort claim forms today is only the first step in getting answers and accountability from all the individuals and entities, both public and private, who knew or should have known about the landslide risk that eventually took the lives of more than forty people in Snohomish County.

News coverage of the Oso Mudslide Lawsuit

June 5, 2014

Rekhter v. DSHS – Victory in nearly $90M Class Action

WA Supreme Court DENIES State’s Motion for Reconsideration

The Washington Supreme Court today denied the State of Washington’s motion to reconsider its ruling in favor of the Class Plaintiffs on their $57 million jury verdict with post-judgment interest. The judgment of roughly $90 million will stand.

Once finalized, the case will be returned to Thurston County Superior Court for final work to be completed on payment and the payment process that will be ordered by the court. The Court will determine the most appropriate way to make sure that the Class Members know about the result and the manner in which money will be distributed to the Class Members.

Please check in frequently here on the website for updated details as we move towards completion of this process.

Read the order from the Supreme Court here

This case is about in-home care providers who lost out on benefits promised them by WA DSHS.  In 2010, the case went to trial and the jury awarded the plaintiffs over $57,000,000.  After a lengthy appeals process, the total award with post-judgment interest will be nearly $90,000,000.

April 4, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds $57M Verdict for Home-Care Workers

Our case against DSHS, Rekhter, et al. v. DSHS, et al. was won at trial in December 2010, with a jury verdict of over $57,000,000.  The State appealed that verdict to the State Supreme Court, and oral arguments were heard in May 2013.  After a long wait, the decision came back from the State’s highest court.  While the Supreme Court overturned an award of pre-judgment interest of over $39M, they upheld the verdict of over $57M and allowed post-judgment interest, bringing the total to over $80M.  The local news media covered the Supreme Court ruling at length.  We’ve linked to the articles below.  Find out more information about the case at our website, www.dshslawsuit.com

Rekhter v. DSHS News Coverage

March 31, 2014

PCVA Wins WSAJ’s 2014 Alvin Anderson Award

We would like to thank WSAJ for awarding our firm with the 2014 Alvin Anderson Award. The Alvin Anderson Award is presented to an individual or firm in recognition of their extraordinary commitment, energy and effort in helping generate the economic resources necessary to enable the Washington State Association for Justice to promote and preserve the civil justice system.

 2014 WSAJ Alvin Anderson Award

March 31, 2014

Oso Landslide Similar to 2007 Event

More than 20 people are dead, at least eight injured and approximately 30 are still unaccounted for after a massive landslide broke from a clear-cut hillside and leveled homes about four miles east of the community of Oso in Snohomish County according to published reports.

PCVA has helped people in death and catastrophic injury cases.  Often, survivors of catastrophic situations often feel like they need legal advice immediately due to the influx of incoming calls and demands by insurance adjusters calling about property damages, life insurance, or medical insurance coverage.  Occasionally, there may be a need to contact a probate attorney, an employer, or a host of other decisions that survivors of catastrophic situations are being bombarded with in rapid succession.  Blogging about these matters is a sensitive matter, but PCVA’s goal is to make ourselves available to those confronted immediately with the terrible demands and burdens of being the survivor, left to pick up the pieces and keep moving forward.

PCVA has helped people in this situation.  In 2011, PCVA filed several lawsuits against timber companies and the State Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) to help families who were victims of risky timber practices.  Experts retained by PCVA agree that landslides and mudslides occur when timber is harvested on steep slopes in areas of unstable land, heavy rainfall, and defective drainage.

Ranch House BBQ was destroyed in a 2007 landslide

For example, such risky timber practices were the result of a mudslide that destroyed the Ranch House BBQ restaurant in 2007.  There, the facts were very similar to the type of logging that occurred right above the OSO Landslide.  DNR denied any wrongdoing, but in the end, it recognized that the evidence showed that risky timber practices caused the landslide.  Thankfully, the case involved only property and business damages, and not personal injury or wrongful death.  More can be read about the case here.

PCVA is also currently awaiting an important decision from the Washington State Supreme Court in the several cases filed in 2011.  The decision will have an impact on where lawsuits for property damages can be filed.  Oral arguments were heard in the spring of 2013 and a should be released shortly.

Washington law is clear that timber companies can be held responsible for their risky timber practices.  The recent mudslides along Highway 530 near OSO in Snohomish County underscore exactly how risky timber practices can lead to catastrophe. .  Sadly, the evidence is mounting that risky timber practices, coupled with rain and other elements, caused the perfect recipe for one of the worst disaster tragedies that Washington has ever seen.  PCVA extends their deepest condolences to those families impacted by the mudslide.

March 26, 2014

Risky Timber Practices Above Oso Landslide

March 2014 Oso Landslide

The Seattle Times reported yesterday that the Snohomish County’s own 2010 report called the slide area dangerous.  It also reported that the State Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) allowed logging on the plateau above the slope. The Seattle Times’ reporting mirrors what PCVA’s own independent research has yielded.

The triangle of land that was logged just before the 2006 Stealhead Mudslide can be seen in this image:

Area logged before the 2014 Oso, WA landslide

As the Seattle Times reported, the apex of this triangle cut facing down was only a mere 600 feet from the origin of the 2006 Sealhead Mudslide.  This is a particularly dangerous cut in land that has been known for years to be unstable.

DNR approved timber harvesting on this land even though its own maps showed that the Oso slide area is not only steep but also comprised of “Qls” soil, a type of unconsolidated sediment:

DNR QIs soil, an unconsolidated sediment

Upon further investigation, PCVA has discovered that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) has a database containing additional information about the unstable soil composition of the Oso Mudslide area.  According to the USDA maps, the soil where the mudslide occurred was comprised of fine to gravelly “loam,” a type of soil comprised of mostly sand and silt.  Perhaps more alarming is that the area where the Oso Mudslide occurred, as well as where timber cuts have been allowed, were labeled “ESB.”  According to the USDA’s website, “ESB” stands for “Escarpment, bedrock,” and is defined as “A relatively continuous and steep slope or cliff, which was produced by erosion or faulting, that breaks the general continuity of more gently sloping land surfaces.  Exposed material is hard or soft bedrock.”  The following map shows the different soil types outlined in orange and numbered, as well as the “ESB” demarcations:

WA DNR - ESB Demarcations, Oso, WA

Experts alike agree that risky timber activities increases landslide frequency.  In a paper published in Geology in April 2000, several landslide experts surveyed landslides in Washington and concluded that “evidence confirm[s] that forest clearing increases regional landslide frequency.”  They further remarked that a “fundamental change in landscape dynamics is particularly relevant to long-term forest planning, especially where urban areas are extending into landslide-prone terrain.”  A copy of this paper can be found here [176kb PDF].

Just as these experts concluded, another team of experts from Tetra Tech identified the Oso Mudslide area as being dangerous.  As the Seattle Times reported, Tetra Tech’s study, a portion of which can be found here, identified the Oso Mudslide area “spotlighted the risks of the hill.”  “[T]he Steelhead Drive area was identified not only because of the steep slope but also because of a soil type that has been linked to landslides.”

Other Landslide Lawsuits

In lawsuits against DNR and timber companies for negligent forestry practices, PCVA has uncovered a history of relaxed permitting and risky cutting driven by money that has caused numerous mudslides all across Washington.  Despite all experts agreeing that harvesting on or near unstable slopes is dangerous, the practice continues to this day.

In 2011, PCVA filed a lawsuit against DNR and Manke Lumber Company (“Manke”) for their negligent harvest of timber both on and near unstable soil and steep slopes. There, DNR cut on some slopes exceeding 110% in grade and cut on other slopes too close to ravine tops.  DNR made these cuts even though a 1960 soil survey of the area identified the soil composition of Little Dewatto valley slopes as “Rough broken land,” which “has no agricultural value and should be left in its natural cover to prevent erosion.”  Disregarding the studies, as well as common sense, DNR and Manke cut on extremely steep slopes comprised of unstable soil.  These practices destabilized the area, and landslides have recurred every year for the last 5 years in the area, causing significant damage to the properties below.

Similar disregard for the high risk of mudslides is the basis of another lawsuit that PCVA is fighting against Manke.  In that case, Manke knew or should have known that a logging road it was required to maintain was likely to fail and cause a landslide.  The foreseeable happened on January 7, 2009, when the road failure caused a massive mudslide that destroyed a home and nearly took several lives.  These photos are only but another example of risky timber practices and man-made causes of mudslides that wreak havoc on families:

landslide-aftermath-1

Landslide Aftermath

landslide-aftermath-2

March 15, 2014

J.N., et al. v. Boy Scouts of America, et al. – Confidential Settlement

Four men have settled their claims against the Boy Scouts of America for sexual abuse they suffered as young boys between 1979 and 1986 at Fire Mountain Boy Scout Camp by the camp’s Aquatics Director, Charles S. Grewe. Since at least 1979, the Boy Scouts knew Grewe was a pedophile based on complaints of abuse made by other young scouts. Almost every year between 1979 and 1987, young boys at Fire Mountain camp reported to camp leaders that Grewe sexually abused them at the swim beach. Similarly, in 1981, young boys from Troop 41 in Lake Stevens, WA, reported that that Grewe sexually abused them during Scout meetings. That information was immediately reported to the Scout Executive of the Evergreen Area Local Council, but Grewe, who was heavily decorated and considered a “respected member of the Scouting community,” was allowed to remain in various leadership positions in Scouting, including his close work with children at Fire Mountain Scout camp. Meanwhile, outside of Scouting, Grewe worked as a bus driver for various elementary schools in the Everett School District. Finally, in 1988, Grewe was arrested and convicted for numerous sexual offenses against children after he was found to have sexually abused a number of boys and girls on the school bus. In 1988, the Boy Scouts of America met with Grewe to discuss the numerous allegations of abuse, and finally suspended him from Scouting, action they should have taken almost ten years earlier.

4 Tents set up at Camp

Result
  • Settlement: Confidential
Defendant(s)
Attorneys
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