Archive for the ‘Our Community’ Category

You Can’t Text 9-1-1 in Clark County….YET.

May 16, 2014

911Much has been circulating throughout the news and in social media about being able to text 9-1-1 from your cellular phone.  You’ve probably heard that you can now text 9-1-1 because yesterday, May 15, 2014, was the deadline for mobile carriers to be technologically ready to allow consumers to text 9-1-1 for emergencies.


Even though you may be able to text to 9-1-1, many government agencies are not yet prepared to receive the text messages.  This is the case with Clark County.  The Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) is currently working on equipment upgrades that will allow it to receive text messages here in Vancouver and the surrounding Clark County area.  They’re not there yet.  Currently, if you try to text 9-1-1 you will receive only a bounce-back reply from your carrier telling you that your text message was not received by a CRESA.

If you’re in an emergency, CRESCA suggests a voice call anyway–its better for the exchange of information and to allow a more efficient response time. That said, its important to know and understand that even if you’re in a situation where you’d prefer not to use your voice (I can think of many, but would rather not), a text message won’t do you any good and should not yet be relied upon as a method of calling for help or assistance.

Hopefully none of us (or our friends) will have to contact 9-1-1 anyway, but if we do, its important to be informed and to know and understand how to call for help in an emergency. Be safe.



Bike Clark County Needs Your Help

May 1, 2014

Bike Clark CountyEric GiacchinoSeveral months ago, I wrote about Bike Clark County–a local non-profit dedicated to “giving kids the skills to safely and responsibly use their bike as an affordable and eco friendly mode of transportation.”  Since writing that historic (I’m always one for the dramatic) post, I have had the opportunity to meet with Bike Clark County President, Eric Giacchino, and other Bike Clark County volunteers on several occasions. Each time, I have been more and more impressed with the organization and what it stands for.  Bike Clark County continues to grow and spread cycling safety to the next generation of riders. It continues to advocate for bicycle safety in our communities.

This summer, Bike Clark County needs your help.

One of Bike Clark County’s annual projects is the Safe Routes to School – Bicycle Safety Programs. These run May 19 through June 17.  Bike Clark County needs volunteers to work with local schools and teachers to provide bicycle handling and safety skills to middle school students in Clark County. The Safe Routes to School program is a national program that was developed by the League of American Bicyclists and is designed to help develop knowledge and expertise in bicycling through their Traffic Skills 101 program.

Vancouver and Evergreen School Districts have been teaching the Safe Routes to School curriculum for over 10 years. The flagship programs are taught at Mcloughlin Middle School and Wy’east Middle School. Discovery Middle School started running the program in 2013. There is now an after school version of the program taught by Bike Clark County volunteers at Hough Elementary School.

The program is focused on teaching basic bicycle safety checks, helmet fitting and proper attire, basic bicycle handling skills, and rules of the road and proper hand signals. The course has both classroom instructional and riding components. The riding portions start in a “traffic free” environment, such as on-campus and parking lot riding.  After basic skills and traffic laws are mastered, an on-road component is initiated.

So where do you come in?

Safe RoutesVolunteers are most needed during the helmet fitting and riding phases, in particular for the on-road components. The school teachers handle the majority of the instruction and discipline, so Bike Clark County volunteers get to focus on encouraging kids, providing additional oversight, minor bicycle maintenance assistance, and helping guide on-street rides.  We really encourage parents of students in each school to get involved and volunteer. The rapport parents have with students is a positive asset. The key dates for this year’s programs are from May 19-June 17th. Find out more on the Bike Clark County Calendar.

What does it take to volunteer?

To volunteer you will need to:

  1. Complete a Volunteer Application form for each of the school districts you plan to help out with. You can pick up the forms at any school in the district or print out on line.  Forms are dropped off at any school in the district. For Evergreen School District, which covers Wy’east Middle School, click here. For Vancouver School District, which covers Discovery, Hough and Mcloughlin Schools, click here.
  2. Have a safe and functional bicycle and helmet. If you need to have your bicycle checked over first or if you need to borrow one from Bike Clark County, contact us a few weeks in advance of the programs or come to one of our bike repair days.
  3. The Rules of the Road that apply to cars also apply to bicycles. Ensure that you are aware and use safe riding techniques in your own riding to be a good example to the students. As we ride on neighborhood streets, volunteer roles are to help ensure that kids are riding safely, maintaining safe following distances, using hand signals, and following rules of the roads. At intersections, volunteers help ensure kids stop at stop signs, signal and check for traffic, and make safe decisions about when to ride across. We don’t stop traffic for the kids, we want them to learn how to ride in a real-world environment.
  4. Have a positive and encouraging attitude! The teachers do the discipline and maintain classroom order, so our job is to help kids have a fun riding experience.
  5. Mechanical skills are a bonus. Prior to the start of the programs, Bike Clark County Volunteer mechanics give every bicycle a tune up and safety check. To participate – see our calendar update for information. At the start of every class we do a basic “ABC” Safety check to make sure bikes are in adjustment and ready to roll. Beyond that, it is helpful if you know how to fix a flat or adjust a derailleur when we are out on the road – but don’t worry – there is always at least one volunteer with some mechanical skills present.
  6. For the truly committed volunteer, you can get certified as an instructor through the League of American Bicyclists. While not required to help with these programs, it’s a great course packed with good information.  There may be opportunities in our area soon.  For more information and background click here.

Bike Clark County is made up entirely of volunteers. If you’re looking for a way to get involved, this would be a great opportunity.

The “McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case”: 20 Years in the Making

February 17, 2014

hot-coffee-lawsuitIt’s hard to believe, but this year marks the 20-year anniversary of the “McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case.” Recall that the case arose when McDonald’s coffee spilled on the lap of Ms. Leibeck, a passenger in a car going through a McDonald’s drive-thru, causing burns and other injuries. After a jury trial, Ms. Leibeck was awarded $2.9 million dollars for her injuries.

The case is notorious in America, and beyond, for supposedly highlighting all that is wrong with the justice system in America. However, when one really looks back 20-years at what really happened in the case, it is clear that the notoriety is not founded on actual facts but on the biased spinnings of the case by media and corporate America.

Ever since the jury first decided the case in 1994, the insurance industry has grabbed a hold of the media frenzy and wielded the notoriety against persons injured by the negligence of others.  Recently, one insurance defense attorney in Utah tried to inflame a jury against the plaintiff by arguing the McDonald’s Hot Coffee case phenomenon in closing argument.  The plaintiff’s attorney immediately objected to the argument as prejudicial to the plaintiff.

The objection made it all the way to the Utah Supreme Court.  Boyle v. Christensen, 251 P.3d 810 (2011).  The court discussed the McDonald’s case and, rather than summarize their conclusions for you, I provide an excerpt from the court’s opinion:

Before we analyze this statement, it may be useful to explain the cultural context of the McDonald’s coffee case, more formally known as Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, P.T.S., Inc., [No. CV-93-02419, 1995 WL 360309 (N.M. Dist. Ct. Aug. 18, 1994)]. Few cases have ever achieved as much notoriety among the general public of this country as the McDonald’s coffee case, fueled by its wide-ranging and repeated publicity in national and local news media. It has been mocked in extremely popular entertainment television, including The Tonight Show, The Late Show, and Seinfeld. It has been debated on talk shows, parodied in television commercials, mentioned in congressional debates, and is firmly lodged in the public consciousness. Mark B. Greenlee, Kramer v. Java World: Images, Issues and Idols in the Debate over Tort Reform, 26 CAP.U.L.Rev.. 701, 702-03 (1997). “What made the headlines and what is most commonly recalled by the general populace about the … case is the size of the verdict and the source of the injury—$2.9 million for spilled coffee.” Id. at 718. In U.S. popular culture, the case has come to symbolize greedy plaintiffs and lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits and win hugely excessive sums in a broken legal system. See, e.g., Peter G. Angelos, Commentary, 1996 Spring Commencement Speech, 27 U. BALT. L.F. 19, 21 (1996); Michael McCann, William Haltom & Anne Bloom, Java Jive: Genealogoy of Judicial Icon, 56 U. MIAMI L.REV. 113, 115, (2001).
Athough the public view of the case is understandable when limited to a superficial view of its facts, a deeper look at the details and issues in the case may dramatically alter one’s perspective. Among the many relevant facts generally missing from the public consciousness are the following:
(1) The temperature of the spilled coffee was so hot—180 to 190 degrees—that within seconds it caused third-degree burns that extended through the skin to the fat, muscle, or bone on Ms. Liebeck’s thighs, buttocks, and groin area. She was hospitalized for eight days, underwent skin grafts, was disabled for two years following the accident, and was permanently disfigured with scars on over 16 percent of her body.See Greenlee, supra, at 718–19; see also Angelos, supra, at 21; Brian Timothy Beasley, North Carloina’s New Punitive Damages Statute: Who’s Being Pubished, Anyway?, 74 N.C.L.REV. 2174, 2190 (1996).
(2) The jury heard evidence that McDonald’s had received approximately 700 other complaints about coffee-burn injuries in the previous decade (some of which were settled for a total outlay of over $500,000), but considered the number of injuries statistically insignificant and therefore did not lower the temperature of its coffee. See Marc Galanter, An Oil Strike in Hell: Contemporary Legends About the Civil Justice System, 40 ARIZ. L.REV. 717, 732 (1998); Greenlee, supra at 719-722.
(3) The jury awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages because it believed the extreme temperature of the coffee was unreasonably dangerous and that McDonald’s had callously disregarded the danger even after hundreds of injuries. The $2.7 million figure was based on the approximate revenues from just two days of McDonald’s coffee sales. Shari Seidman Diamond, Truth, Justice, and the Jury, 26 HARV. J.L. & PUB. POL’YY 143, 146-67 (2003).
Given the uniquely iconic nature of this case, the passion it has produced in the media, and the general misunderstanding of the totality of its facts and reasoning among the public, we find it hard to imagine a scenario where it would be proper for a party’s counsel to refer to it before a jury. Generally, as here, such a reference would seem to have the sole purpose of recalling the public outrage over isolated elements of the case—thus improperly appealing to a jury’s passions. It is not the jury’s job to make legal determinations, so no legal arguments from the case are relevant…. It is certainly unfair to require the other party to clarify all the misconceptions about this irrelevant case in the limited time allotted for closing argument. The great latitude provided in closing arguments regards reasonable inferences about evidence properly before the jury and does not extend to misrepresentations or efforts to appeal to a jury’s passions. Thus the reference to the McDonald’s coffee case in closing argument was improper.
Doyle, 251 P.3d 810, 816-19 (2011).
The court required the parties to try the case all over again because of the confusion created by the reference to the McDonald’s case and the likelihood that the jury would improperly reduce the amount awarded to the plaintiff.
As a personal injury attorney, who represents those injured by the negligence of others, I often (always) enter the courtroom to face many of the biases and misconceptions created in the wake of Ms. Leibeck’s jury award. I can’t rightly argue for the appropriateness of Ms. Leibeck’s award–the jury would hate me even more, but I can’t rightly ignore it either–I need to identify jurors with potential biases.  The only way to balance the scales against the public’s misconception is through education and awareness.
The misconceptions highlighted by the court above identify but a few of the important facts relevant to the jury’s ultimate decision to award Ms. Leibeck $2.9 million dollars.  A 2011 award winning HBO Documentary entitled “Hot Coffee” opened the door to a real and honest discussion about the McDonald’s case, and other similar cases spun by corporate America to mislead the public. It highlights the important differences between what is presented to the community throughout the media and the reality surrounding the civil justice system in America. It’s a good watch and worth your time, even if only to quench your curiosity and better understand one of the most debated legal cases of our time.  It’s available to rent on
I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts on this issue, especially after watching the documentary.

When Horrible Events Meet Modern Technology – A Story of Love and Support

December 5, 2013

Fifteen years ago, on the eve of his 21st birthday, my would-be brother-in-law died in a sudden car crash. Both he and the driver of the other vehicle involved were killed in a head-on collision. His mom (my soon-to-be-mother-in-law) had a neighbor who worked as a State Highway Patrol Officer. Within moments of the crash, this neighbor, happened to learn who died in the crash and was able to break the terrifying news to my mother-in-law, personally, compassionately, and in the privacy of her own home. While nothing could prepare my mother-in-law for such tragedy, she has been eternally grateful for her neighbor and the love and concern he showed that day.

Contrast that private experience with the nightmare that became Caran Johnson’s living reality yesterday afternoon. Ms. Johnson is a local celebrity of sorts to those of us in Vancouver who are active on Twitter. Under the Twitter handle @ScanCouver, she often “tweets” the news and other important events around town. I have been one of her “followers” for some time. Yesterday in an ironic and heartbreaking chain of tweets, her Twitter page became a public forum for a painfully private event. Like many car crashes before, Ms. Johnson joined a twitter conversation about a horrendous two-car collision in Vancouver. She realized the collision occurred along the path her husband was taking home, and that he was late, and not answering his phone. She nervously sought information from other social media users until her last tweet confirmed her greatest fears.


“It’s him. he died.”

I believe KATU news was the first to report on the tragedy. Within hours there was a tremendous outpouring of support on twitter and beyond as the story spread across the internet, and, as of this morning across the world.

I don’t normally choose to write about issues beyond what we can do to “make safe” our community. I don’t know what caused yesterday’s crash, but it seems Ms. Johnson’s husband may have suffered from some sort of sudden medical condition. I don’t want to speak to that. I don’t want to speak of fault or to point fingers.

Today, in the new “future” that is our present, news travels faster than ever before. We learn of events, often, as they’re happening. Today, through the wonders of the internet and social media, we can place ourselves anywhere in the world. We can, electronically speaking, be there for Ms. Johnson, to lend a shoulder for her to cry on and to offer words of encouragement and support.

I don’t pretend to know Ms. Johnson, I follow her on Twitter. I don’t pretend to understand what she went through yesterday, what she is undoubtedly enduring today, and what she will surely experience tomorrow. My heart breaks for her. Maybe, in a very public way, Twitter has offered her the very private support she needs now. Maybe all this “support” is something she’d rather not be dealing with today. What I do know is this:

After my brother-in-law died, my mother-in-law met the widow of the other driver killed in the crash. They offered support to one another and expressed their love and concern for the losses each felt. That happened privately and I know it has been tremendously therapeutic to them over the years. They still meet regularly, on the anniversary of the crash to catch up and offer their love to one another.

Today, Ms. Johnson and Benjamin Shelley (@ben253sounders), the son of the other driver involved in yesterday’s collision have turned to each other for support through the power of Twitter:



Earlier this morning, Ms. Johnson pleaded for “help”, for relief, from the reporters who were “at her place.”  Mr. Shelley, understandingly, offered to relieve her by suggesting she invite the press to the hospital to check on the status of his mother.

In my line of work this kind of love and compassion is a rarity. Understand that my job is to hold people accountable for their carelessness and I work hard for my clients to get them the compensation to which they are entitled. But, I strive to always to do so in a way that is understanding and civil. My best clients are those who can do so as well and who don’t get blindsided by hate and revenge. Occasionally a client will hold bitterness and contempt for those who caused their injury. While I understand this desire, it does little for them by way of healing or moving on with their life.

Today I am grateful for modern technology that allows us to express our thoughts and our prayers in a public way that allows for private comfort. Yesterday’s crash was a tragedy. Today’s support is nothing short of a miracle.

Cell Phone Amber Alerts: “Unintelligent, Histrionic, Intrusive.” Really?

August 12, 2013

ImageFor much of last week the entire nation was captivated by the double homicide and kidnapping that set off a nation-wide manhunt for the monster who could commit such atrocious acts.  We watched. Mesmerized and unable to fathom the horror that surely was Hannah Anderson’s reality.  Brett Anderson, Hannah’s father, lived the worst nightmare any father could imagine.

Like many here in Washington, Oregon, and other surrounding states, I received a text message on my cell phone alerting me to the monster still at large.  Alerting me he still had Hannah.  I, like most, stayed alert for the blue Nissan Versa, a bread crumb of sorts that could lead to Hannah’s safe return.

Three days ago, before horseback riders located the monster and just after the blue Nissan Versa had been found, I read an article, published by, entitled “Amber Alerts on Cell Phones: Effective or Annoying.”  Annoying?  Really?  As I read, I was disgusted by the unnamed Sacramento resident who complained the Amber Alert text message was “among the most unintelligent, histrionic, intrusive programs ever. I felt like the San Diego police reached into my pocket.”  I re-read it. “Unintelligent?” “Histrionic?” “Intrusive?” Seriously?

Certainly I must have missed a “not” or a perhaps I misread the sentence entirely.  I re-read it.  Wow.  Each time I did so his message became more and more plain. ” He could not have spoken in clearer terms if he just came out and said, “I don’t care about your daughter. I don’t care about the atrocities the monster committed.  I don’t care about the cruelties the monster may be committing. I don’t care about anybody except for myself. Where’s my coffee?”

For my sanity, I have to believe Selfish Sacramento (what I call him now) is an isolated anomaly. Surely no one else shares his egocentric view of the world.

I wonder what he would think if the monster took his daughter.

Or killed his wife.

Or murdered his son.

Actually, as I think about it, he probably doesn’t have a wife.

Or kids.

Otherwise he would know better.

He would care more.

He would love others.

He would understand.  At least a little.

This is what I tell myself anyway. Maybe he just doesn’t care?

I hope not.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive. Maybe I care too much?

I hope not.

Many of the news articles published “instructions” to turn off the Amber Alerts. This suggested, to me, perhaps others shared Selfish Sacramento’s annoyance.  Please.  For the sake of everything that is good in the world, leave the Amber Alerts on your phone. Do we honestly feel so violated by a single text message? Is our time so much more important than the purpose behind the offending Amber Alert?

I hope and pray that my daughter will never need an Amber Alert.  But if she does, please, please be willing to hear about it.

NOTE: Revised to reflect the changes recommended by my sweet and caring wife.  Thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow.  I love you.

You’re Having Papa Murphy’s Pizza for Dinner Tomorrow Night

July 23, 2013

I bet you didn’t know you were going to eat Papa Murphy’s pizza for dinner tomorrow night.  Read below to find out why.


If you live anywhere near Battle Ground, Washington,  you have probably heard of the nightmare that is Justin Carey’s reality.  On June 10, 2013, like so many days before, 16-year old Justin woke up, got ready, and went to catch the bus for school.  As he waited, Shaun Johnson, for reasons yet unknown, recklessly drove her Nissan Maxima directly into Justin.  The force of the collision thrust Justin over 150 through the air before coming to a rest in nearby bushes.  He laid on the ground, dying and unable to move, for over an hour and a half while officers and deputies investigated the scene and interviewed with Ms. Johnson.  He was too weak to get their attention, and he was becoming weaker by the minute as blood seeped from his body.  It was only when a tow truck operator was preparing Ms. Johnson’s vehicle to be towed from the scene that Justin’s faint pleas for help were heard and his prayers answered.

Emergency responders arrived quickly and rushed Justin to the hospital.  The impact broke both of Justin’s femur bones and severed both of his femoral arteries.  Ultimately, doctors had no choice but to remove the lower part of his right leg.  Miraculously, after more than a month in the hospital, Justin is now home and adapting to  life without his leg.   He’s acknowledged that his career goal of being in the military no longer seems possible but he hopes “something good is going to come out of it.”

As a personal injury attorney, I have a small understanding of the impact this will have on Justin’s life for years to come.  I’ve followed Justin’s story and am amazed by the tremendous show of support here in Southwest Washington.  Home Depot for example offered time and materials to build a wheelchair ramp at Justin’s house.  Local restaurant, South Pacific Cafe and Lounge hosted a fundraiser to pay for a prosthetic leg.  Community donations have poured in to help the family.  These undoubtedly will help Justin and his family deal with his mounting medical bills.  I know enough however to know that the donations will cover just the tip of the medical-bill iceberg that has accrued.  Justin’s medical bills undoubtedly total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Papa Murphy’s CEO, Ken Calwell, has graciously offered to donate to Justin’s medical fund 20 percent of the proceeds from all pizzas sold in Clark County between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday July 24, 2013.  We all need to eat.  It’s too hot to cook anyway.  What better way to show our support for Justin and his family (and Papa Murphy’s) by having pizza tomorrow night.  Share this opportunity with your friends, and invite them to share it with their friends.  Let’s pull together as a community and show our support for Justin and his family.

Who Here Has Heard of “Bike Clark County”?

July 16, 2013


Riding the 2013 Seattle to Portland, or “STP”, this past weekend was one of the most physically and mentally rewarding experiences of my life. It is something I will always remember. During the ride, I realized how much cycling has given to me over the years–good health, physical freedom, release from stress, and personal accomplishment. Even while suffering through those last four miles through Portland, I felt it was time for me to start giving back to the biking community that had given me so much. But where? With who? As I pedaled through the pain, I realized I could not think of a single organization in Vancouver or Clark County committed to biking education and advocacy. Sure, such organizations exist in Portland, Oregon and in Seattle, Washington, but I wanted something smaller. Something local. Something Vancouver.

After my body recovered from the ride and in only a few minutes of internet browsing, I came across a 2011 newspaper article talking about a Vancouver firefighter by the name of Eric Giacchino.  He felt the same bike-safety void in Vancouver as I was feeling. He, however, took the initiative to do something about it. After much work from himself and other volunteers, he created “Bike Clark County“.

Bike Clark County

The organization’s mission:

Through community partnerships and the effort of volunteers, we promote bicycle access, education, safety and the enjoyment of cycling to the children and adults of SW Washington. In simple terms, that translates to getting more people out riding bikes.

Despite my years of riding, how had I not heard about these folks before?  I decided to do my part to spread the word by writing a blog post and sharing about Bike Clark County with my friends and followers.  Bike Clark County offers education classes to Vancouver classrooms, 1-hour commuter workshops to local workplaces, and provide training on bicycle repair; they’ll show you how to do it.  The Board of Directors, made up entirely of community volunteers, includes fire fighters, a County Transportation Planner, a Chief Technology Officer, and a local business owner–all local people interested in making their community a safer place.  All Bike Clark County staff members are also volunteers. The organization supports local community rides like the Gordon Patterson Memorial Bike Ride and Pedalpalooza. All programs are free and made possible through community donations.  They also provide cycling advocacy efforts directed toward helping to make Clark County a bike friendly and safe place to ride and commute.

If you enjoy cycling (or if you get annoyed by irresponsible and reckless cyclists as much as I do), get involved.  Consider volunteering or asking your child’s school or your place of employment to host Bike Clark County Volunteers as they impart their biking wisdom.  It’s only through constant and ongoing education that we can make our communities safer for our children and for all of us cyclists on the roadway.

I love the message on their home page: “Remember the feeling of freedom when you got on your bike? – It never left.”  This message sits next to a picture of a young boy, perhaps 7 years old, who is riding a bike adorned with a hand-drawn face (you have to see it to appreciate it).  The boy reminds me of my eight year old son who loves riding his bike through the neighborhood.  I hope he will forever to do so thanks, in part, to the efforts of Bike Clark County.

Thank you Eric Giacchino for your commitment to make our roads safer and for going the extra mile to help our community in all aspects of your life. You are an example of dedicated service and the pinnacle of what  it means to be from the ‘couve.

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