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Tenant Receives a Brain Injury on Unsafe Stairs in Rental Unit

On October 31, 2009, our client, Connie Moreno, was walking down a set of stairs in the rental unit where she lived. The stairs were very steep, and the treads were so narrow Connie’s feet did not fit on them. When she reached the bottom stair, she lost her footing and fell backwards, hitting the back of her head and neck on a metal railing.

Connie did not have any cuts on the outside of her skin, so she thought she would be okay. She got up and continued with her day. Connie did not know that the fall had caused tears in her vertebral arteries and that the blood supply to her brain was partially blocked.

Over the next six weeks, Connie began having severe headaches, and she became sensitive to light and sound. She started having trouble speaking and she became easily confused by projects that used to be easy for her. She felt tired, but couldn’t get good sleep because laying down hurt her head.

Brain Injury Attorney In Tacoma

Finally, in December, Connie’s headaches were so bad that she went to the doctor in tears. She vomited and collapsed while at the doctor’s office. Connie was taken to the hospital, where imaging studies revealed the damage to her arteries and the blocked blood supply to her brain.

Connie was placed on medication to help restore proper blood flow to her brain, but permanent damage was already done. Imaging studies showed that the lack of oxygen had caused tissue in Connie’s thalamus to die, causing an “infarct” or stroke. Connie was ultimately diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome.

Connie hired Shelly Speir to represent her in a claim against her landlords.

Our investigation revealed that the stairs where Connie fell were not up to code. They were too narrow, and the treads on the individual stairs were different sizes. This was dangerous because the size of individual stairs helps us gauge our gait when we go down stairs, and any irregularities in the stairs interrupts the gait, creating a trip hazard.

We also discovered that Connie’s landlord was a contractor. He testified that before he rented the property to Connie, he measured the stairs. He claimed they were up to code, and did nothing to fix them before he had Connie sign a lease.

Connie and Shelly mediated the case in April 2013, and a settlement of $250,000 was reached.

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Troup, Christnacht, Ladenburg, McKasy, Durkin & Speir Included in Civil Jury Instruction Handbook

TCLMDS has been included in the 2012-2013 Civil Jury Instruction Handbook, a legal publication distibuted to attorneys and law libraries state-wide.  On pages 905-923, our Gorman v. Pierce County case is described and the entire set of jury instructions is provided.

Mike McKasy and Shelly Speir tried Gorman in July 2011, and a jury awarded our client, Sue Gorman, $2.2 million dollars in damages.

TCLMDS is proud to be included in the Handbook.  Our goal is to provide our clients with the best legal representation possible, and we are honored that our work is now being used as an example for others.

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Hockey Hall of Famer

Mike McKasy is pictured here with BOBBY HULL, a Hall of Fame professional hockey player, known as “The Golden Jet.” Bobby starred for the Chicago Blackhawks and later the Winnipeg Jets. Mike, a native of Minnesota, met Bobby at a recent wedding and shared hockey stories.

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DISABLED WOMAN INJURED IN HIGHWAY COLLISION

On February 17, 2009, our client was the back seat passenger of a Pierce Transit shuttle that was headed westbound on Highway 512.

The shuttle came to a stop for traffic ahead.  A semi-truck owned by Di Pietro Trucking did not stop and hit the shuttle.

The force of the impact caused our client’s head to whiplash and hit the back window, breaking out the glass.

Before to the collision, our client suffered developmental delays, but had never suffered from epilepsy.  Within 48 hours after the collision, she began having seizure activity ranging from short periods of staring to grand mal seizures.  The seizures were physically painful, but were also emotionally troubling to our client, who had the mental capacity of a five- to seven-year-old.  Our client’s doctors opined that she would need to take medication for the rest of her life to keep the seizures under control.

Shelly Speir settled the case for $591,095.  Because our client was on public assistance, Shelly helped to establish a special needs trust so her benefits would continue after she received her settlement. Also, her parents had not been appointed as her guardians, so Shelly helped them find a guardianship attorney and get officially appointed in court.

Our Tacoma Personal Injury Law Firm specializes in all sorts of highway collision claims.  If you have been injured in a collision in Tacoma or anywhere in the Puget Sound region please call our firm at 253.777.1900.  We are hear to help protect your rights and fight aggressively for a positive financial outcome for your injuries.

 

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CARPENTER INJURED BY ICE AND SNOW AT TARGET

In December 2012, Shelly Speir settled a case for a 58-year-old journeyman carpenter from Groton, Connecticut who had fallen on ice and snow in a Marysville Target.

Although Target had an Illinois property management company that had hired a local construction company to plow snow and deice Target’s parking lot, that work had not been done for several days during an extended snowstorm.

Our client slipped and fell in an accumulation of ice and snow, causing a full-thickness rotator cuff tear in his left shoulder.

The injury required immediate surgery. After completing his medical treatment, our client was still given a 13% permanent disability rating and could no longer work full time as a carpenter.

Shelly mediated the case against Target and the property management company and obtained a $68,000 settlement.

Because the construction company never responded to the lawsuit, Shelly took a default judgment against the company for another $82,000, bringing the total case value to $150,000.

Contact our Tacoma Law Firm TCLMDS 253.777.1900 if you have had a construction accident while being injured at work.  We represent clients throughout the entire Puget Sound region and will fight for your rights and deserved compensation.

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PEDESTRIAN V. GROCERY STORE

Mike McKasy just settled a case for a client against Winco Foods, a warehouse grocery store operation in Renton, Washington. The store serves over 6,000 customers per day and is open 24 hours a day.

The main exit walkway had a small area that was ripped up for repair and the partially completed project was left without any warnings or protective barriers for exiting customers.

Our client was exiting the store at 10:30 p.m. and fell in the hole in the walkway, severely injuring her knee. Our client was a 6th grade school teacher, and after having surgery on the knee, was left with residual problems in the joint. Winco and the paving company responsible for the job, Emerald Paving, agreed to settle the claim for $90,000.

Our Tacoma Law Firm specializes with clients that have received an accident or injury on a  pedestrian walk-way or on dangerous and defective property in all of Tacoma and the Puget Sound region.

 

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COUNTY SETTLES SHERIFF-MOPED FATALITY

The estate of a Fircrest man who was killed when a Pierce County Deputy Sheriff hit his moped has settled its claim with Pierce County for $1,650,000.

Dale Neel was 61 years old and driving home from work on his moped when Deputy Jason Smith approached in the opposite direction travelling over 55 mph to a traffic stop already covered by another deputy and a Tacoma city policeman. 

Smith had his lights and siren on, so Neel moved from his position in the center turn lane to the curb.  Smith inexplicably crossed the center lane and entered the opposing lane, striking Neel at the curb.  Neel died an hour later in the hospital.

Smith was working under contract at the time for the City of University Place.  He had a history of 5 prior accidents, 3 of which had been determined to be “preventable” by the Pierce County Sheriff’s office.

Neel was survived by his wife, Linda, and two adult children.  Mike McKasy, attorney for the estate, said that as part of the settlement, Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor agreed to meet with Linda Neel to discuss what changes could be made to emergency responses by deputies that could avoid another tragedy.

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DUI PATROLS ONGOING FOR NEXT SIX WEEKS

Pierce County has begun a DUI Emphasis Program beginning November 14, 2012 and running through the next six weeks.  The police departments who will be participating include:  Sumner, Bonney Lake, Puyallup, Tacoma, University Place, Lakewood, Gig Harbor, Steilacoom, Fircrest, Fife, and Dupont as well as the Washington State Patrol and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

DUI Personal Injury Attorney Tacoma, WA

In the event that you are one of the unlucky ones who is arrested during this enforcement program, please call Jim Christnacht at (253) 564-2111 to discuss your rights.  Being arrested for DUI has many consequences.  Those include license suspension by the Department of Licensing as well as possible jail time for convictions of the DUI in the criminal courts system.  It is very important that you contact a lawyer familiar with the DUI laws and implications as soon as possible.

If you are arrested for a DUI, contact  Tacoma DUI Personal Injury Attorney Jim Christnacht at (253) 564-2111.

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Our Tacoma Staff Helps Our Clients with Lawsuit Settlement Agreements

By Kelsey Frey and Alicia David

Congratulations!  You’ve just settled your case.  Now what?  First, one of the two following things will happen:

1)     The insurance company will send both the settlement check and release of all claims; or

2)     The insurance company will send the release first, wait until they receive the signed release back, then send out the settlement check.

Someone from our office will call and let you know that the release and check are in, and will make arrangements with you to sign.

When you are signing the check and release, we will also have you sign a W-9 form. The W-9 form is for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because the interest you earn while your settlement money is held in trust is considered taxable income.

Also, if a portion of your settlement was allocated for wage loss, that portion is also taxable income.

It’s Important to Understand the Process Before Funds are Released

Once you’ve signed the release, check, and W-9, the check will be deposited into a trust account at our bank.  The funds must remain in the trust account for at least 10 business days until the money has cleared.

Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 1.15A(h)(7) states, “a lawyer must not disburse funds from a trust account until deposits have cleared the banking process and been collected…”

The 10-business-day time period is the time frame recommended by the Washington State Bar Association and that is the procedure that our office follows.

While we are waiting to disburse funds to you, we will call your treating providers to find out if there are balances owing.

If you have PIP or health insurance, we will also find out what they have paid toward your treatment and confirm how much should be reimbursed.

Once the ten business days are up, we will call you to set up a time for you to come in and sign the settlement statement and pick up a check for your portion of the settlement.  Checks will be cut from your settlement to medical facilities and health or PIP insurance to pay off balances owed for injury-related treatment.

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HOT COFFEE!—OUR RIGHT TO TRIAL BY JURY UNDER ATTACK

–Shelly Speir

For those of you who have not seen Susan Saladoff’s award-winning documentary, Hot Coffee, you should!

The film was premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and won the Best Documentary Grand Jury Prize at SIFF that same year.  The film is now available on HBO and Netflix, and there were two special screenings here in Tacoma on June 12, 2012.

So what is the film about?  Most of us have heard stories about the woman who spilled coffee in her lap and got millions of dollars, right?  Hot Coffee tells the true story of Stella Liebeck, the woman who got burned, and highlights three other cases that show how our right to trial by jury is being attacked by big corporations.

How the Media Can Influence Personal Injury Trials in Tacoma and Afar

The first part of the movie, called “The Public Relations Campaign,” takes an in-depth look at Stella Liebeck’s case against McDonalds.  Through interviews and actual trial exhibits, Saladoff shows how the media did not report facts about the case correctly.

This was due to an intentional effort by McDonalds and other large corporate interests to use “mass misinformation” to sway public opinion against consumers who take their claims to court.

As a result, Liebeck’s case became the poster child for “frivolous” lawsuits, when in fact, her case had merit and the jury found in her favor.

At the Tacoma screening I attended, people who saw the truth about Liebeck’s case were shocked that the truth was never reported.  “Why weren’t we told about this?” one woman asked.

A Concerning Look at Ceilings Put on Medical Coverages

The second part of the movie, “Caps on Damages,” shows how limits on the amount an injured person can receive in compensation hurts the most badly injured victims.  It also forces victims and taxpayers to cover the cost of someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior.

This issue is brought to life through the story of Colin, a boy born with cerebral palsy due to a serious medical error.  Because of the cerebral palsy, Colin suffered serious, debilitating brain damage and will need life-long care.

Colin’s parents sued on Colin’s behalf, and a jury awarded Colin $5.6 million dollars.  However, because of a state-mandated cap on damages, Colin’s award was reduced to $1.25 million, an amount that will not come close to what he needs for his medical care.

Misinformation…The Media & Our Judicial System

The third part of the movie, “Judicial Elections,” shows how big companies spread misinformation about judges and spend money to elect industry-chosen candidates.  Saladoff tells the story of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, who lost his bid for re-election after big business interests found a way to get him criminally prosecuted on false charges.

The last part of the movie, “Mandatory Arbitration,” explains how more Americans than ever are losing their right to trial by jury through mandatory arbitration clauses.  Mandatory arbitration clauses are showing up in fine print everywhere—even cell phone bills.

These clauses force consumers out of court and into arbitration, where the arbitrator is chosen by the same company who the consumer believes has wronged him or her.  Mandatory arbitrations are more secretive, and arbitrators are not even required to follow the law.

In Conclusion, I Suggest Watching the Documentary Movie Hot Coffee!

Hot Coffee shows the story of a young woman who was drugged and raped by fellow employees, but was not allowed to sue her employer because of a mandatory arbitration clause.

After seeing Saladoff’s documentary, many in the audience with me felt outrage and shock.  But how do individuals stand up against big companies?  How can ordinary citizens protect their right to trial by jury?  One suggestion was to ask a lot of questions.

For example, if you see a story in the newspaper that describes an ongoing lawsuit, contact the reporter and ask for more details.

Another suggestion was to insist that the media report stories accurately—if you see a mistake in a news story, contact the reporter and ask for a correction to be printed.

The goal is to stop “mass misinformation” wherever possible.  Once we know the truth, we can protect our rights.

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Ladenburg McKasy Durkin, Inc. P.S.
6602 19th Street West, Tacoma, WA 98466
253-777-1900

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