Oregon Trial Advocate

Personal Injury Law & Politics

Insurance Drones Now Come with Four Wings Instead of Khakis and a Cubicle

Posted in Uncategorized, You Ought To Know

 

WMCH Drone

 

 

Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted clearance to several of the major American insurance agencies, such as Allstate Corp. and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., to develop unmanned aircraft for use in processing insurance claims. The drones have the potential to radically change the way insurance companies conduct investigations.

Instead of sending an agent who can only assess one property at a time and requires a significant amount of travel time, especially in dangerous conditions or during peak hours, the insurance agencies argue several drones could be operated at once, dramatically increasing response time in the wake of an accident or natural disaster. Additionally, the drones’ aerial coverage would potentially provide views of areas that are dangerous or cannot physically be reached by the claims adjuster.

However, several problems, particularly pertaining to privacy rights, remain unaddressed. It is still unclear just what the drone is allowed to capture with its camera. The FAA does state that the drone can only be flown on private property with the permission of the owner. Yet, the reasoning some of the insurance officials use, claiming, for instance, that privacy rights, to a large extent, have already been given away to small planes and helicopters, is somewhat concerning. The insurance companies undoubtedly want to spy on people who make claims. Insurance companies already secretly videotape claimants, spy on their social network sites, and call their friends to dig up dirt on them—even though it very rarely produces useful information. We believe regulations should be enacted prohibiting insurance companies from using drones to videotape the insurees and claimants on private property without their consent. The regulations should further require that insurance companies make any videos or data gathered available to any claimant. While it is unlikely that drones will replace humans anytime soon, don’t be surprised if you see them zipping around taking photos with a large State Farm or Geico logo on the side. And if you do, call your lawyer!

Is Your Loved One Safe? Elder Abuse is on the Rise

Posted in Sexual Abuse, Uncategorized, You Ought To Know

In November of 2013, Elmo and his wife, Meliitta, approached their neighbors, Sandra Bittler and her husband Michael Leland, about purchasing a 2 acre lot that bordered their two properties. Elmo, age 86, was delighted by the idea that the land his sons had made their wilderness playground could brighten the days of another set of children. However, he was not expecting to be swindled by his neighbors. Without an independent broker to ensure a fair price, the Marquettes sold the lot for a mere $22,000, a fraction of the actual value of the land. The couple’s plight became not only a headline, but also a clear case of one of the major dangers facing the elderly, financial abuse.*

Elder abuse is an all too real problem for many. As a recent Reuters article, plainly entitled “Elder abuse may be more common than people think,” describes, today’s aging population is increasingly in danger. The Reuters report indicates that 1 in 10 lucid older adults have experienced abuse in North and South America, with the numbers rising to over 50% for those with dementia.

Elder abuse can range from psychological, sexual and physical abuse to financial abuse. Such abuse towards the elderly can cause them to suffer psychological disorders as well as physical illness and premature mortality. The increased medical costs, caused by the elder abuse places a heavy burden on our healthcare system. The gradual aging of the baby boom population in this country exacerbates this problem. According to the Oregonian, as of 2013 about half a million Oregonians are over 65 or disabled, contributing to the rise of financial abuse in Oregon by 33% between 2009 and 2012, however, records concerning physical abuse are not readily available. Unfortunately, a lot of elder abuse goes unreported as many of the elderly fear retaliation. In the case of financial abuse elderly people are often unaware of theft or embezzlement of their money and property.

Fortunately, increased education and knowledge of elder abuse has led to a rise in reporting rates. Additionally, many professions, such as doctors, police officers and the clergy, are required by Oregon law to report elder abuse if they see it. Several new occupations, including attorneys, were added last January when House Bill 2205 took effect, further increasing the chance that abuse will be reported. Some Oregon banks are also distributing kits to its workers in the hope of increasing detection of financial abuse.

What is the best way to prevent such abuse? First, planning ahead while elderly family or friends are lucid, particularly in terms of finances, can help prevent abuse. It is almost impossible to predict if or when you or a loved one may be subject to abuse, but you can limit the damage. However, as most elder abuse is perpetrated by a family member or close friend, maintaining contact with a wide support network of friends and family is important in limiting abuse. These simple steps can offer some security as old age approaches, even if they cannot prevent abuse or rectify the damage after the fact.

With support from their family, friends, a lawyer and a slew of headlines at the Oregonian, in 2014, Elmo and Meliitta got their land back. But the Marquettes were lucky. Without these support networks, they could have very easily succumbed to shame or gotten bogged down in legal and bureaucratic processes, leaving the land in their neighbors’ hands and themselves victims. “How old is too old?” the exasperated Leland asked the Oregonian. The answer is unclear, but as the population ages it is increasingly a question that must be asked.

*Story featured in a series of articles in the Oregonian by Steve Duin

K&M Stands with Judge Charles Zennaché in Terry Bean Case

Posted in Sexual Abuse, Uncategorized

The Oregonian reported Thursday that Judge Charles Zennaché of the Lane County Circuit Court rejected a civil compromise offer proposed by prominent activist Terry Bean who is accused of child sex abuse. Bean and Kiah Loy Lawson face criminal charges after allegedly having sex with an underage boy in 2013. The boy was 15 at the time. By refusing the civil compromise, Judge Zennaché ensured that the criminal charges against Bean will continue to stand.  Accepting the civil solution would have been “bad public policy,” said Judge Zennaché, “… (and bad) from a public safety perspective.”*

 

Terry Bean was a major contributor to President Barack Obama and is one of the founders of the Human Rights Campaign.

 

Kafoury & McDougal support the decision by Judge Zennaché. Sex abusers are usually predators, and they routinely leave a vast number of victims in their wake. Our firm has vindicated the rights of numerous victims of sex abuse and has exposed the concealment of predators by such institutions as the ambulance service AMR, Legacy Emanuel and the Dalles Hospital.

 

Terry Bean should face public accountability and judgment.  Terry Bean should not be allowed to use a civil compromise to cover up for any alleged crimes.

 

 

 

*As quoted in The Oregonian

 

You Paid for UIM Coverage, Under a New Oregon Law You’re More Likely to Get It

Posted in K&M in the News, You Ought To Know

Did you know you have been paying for underinsured motorist coverage as part of your auto policy? The purpose of underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is to protect you if you are injured by a driver without enough insurance. For example, the minimum auto insurance liability limit required by Oregon law is $25,000. So what if you got hit by someone within minimum liability limits of $25,000? You would think that is exactly when underinsured motorist coverage would protect you.

Currently that is not the case. Let’s say, for instance, you are hit head on by a car going the wrong way down a one way street. Not only is your car badly damaged, but your leg is also broken and you have had to miss a lot of work. You have medical expenses and lost wages. The bad driver’s insurance gives you $25,000, well short of your total damages. Luckily, you have a $25,000 UIM policy.

But guess what? Insurance companies in Oregon have been subtracting the amount of the bad driver’s insurance from the amount of UIM coverage you paid for. The driver’s $25,000 minus your $25,000 leaves you with no underinsurance coverage.

However, in mid-March, the 78th Oregon Legislative Assembly passed Senate Bill 411 (SB 411), designed to protect consumers by prohibiting insurance companies from subtracting the liability limits of the bad drive that hit you. Starting January 1, 2016, SB 411 makes it illegal for your insurance company to subtract the amount of the bad driver’s insurance policy from your UIM coverage. Using the above example, now you can recover the $25,000 from the bad driver and get the $25,000 of UIM coverage you paid, totaling $50,000. Should you and the bad driver’s policies both be $100,000 or $250,000, the available insurance would be $200,000 and $500,000 respectively. Finally, you get the full benefit of the UIM coverage you paid for.

At Kafoury and McDougal, we have routinely secured the owed UM/UIM benefits for those who, unfortunately, find themselves in accidents, such as D.T. While crossing the intersection of Highway 30 and E. Colombia Avenue, D.T. was struck by an uninsured driver who sped around another car to run illegally through the light. Our firm brought a suit against her insurer after they failed to offer even a cent of her UM benefits. In spite of the insurer’s claims that D.T. should have seen the oncoming car and not entered the crosswalk, we received a unanimous decision from a three-member panel of arbitrators against the insurance company. As a result, D.T. was rewarded the full amount of her rather substantial uninsured motorist policy.

Under the new Oregon legislation UM/UIM policies are more useful than ever. However, SB 411 only benefits coverage acquired, or renewed, as of the first of January 2016. We urge Oregon drivers to take advantage of this new legislation and increase their UIM insurance. The State of Oregon has protected consumers by requiring insurance companies to provide the fullest coverage possible under UIM insurance, now it is up to you to take advantage of it.

Latino Construction Worker Fatality Rates Rise While Others Decline

Posted in You Ought To Know

The number of Latino construction workers, as a percentage of the construction work force, has been on the rise over the last 4 years. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2010 the number of construction workers that identified themselves as Latino or Hispanic was 24% of the independent construction workforce. By 2014, that number was roughly 27%. Concurrent with this rise in the construction workforce has been a rise in fatality rates for Latino workers, from 23% of construction fatalities in 2010, to 29% in 2013 (2014 statistics are not yet available). What is troubling is that inversely to the rise of Latino worker’s fatality rates, the percentage of non-Latino worker’s fatality rates has dropped significantly. This means that as a percentage of the workforce, the fatality rates have doubled for Latino workers in comparison to the rise of the Latino worker’s population.

 

6a00d834518cf769e201b8d0feea6f970c

According to Jorge Perez, the director of the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association, (HACIA) there are numerous reasons for the increase in Latino workers construction fatalities. The primary reason that Perez points to is a lack of safety awareness by workers and contractors. Lack of safety training, coupled with a lack of available training for construction workers in their native Spanish language, are important factors that can lead to fatal accidents in the workplace, according to Perez.

Who regulates the safety and training standards for construction sites? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). But OSHA appears to be severely undermanned to monitor every construction site. A report from the American Federation or Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) found that OSHA employs nearly 2,000 inspectors who are responsible for 8 million work sites under their jurisdiction. This means that each inspector is responsible for the health and safety standards of about 4,000 worksites.

Furthermore, the penalties that OSHA issues to contractors who fall below the industry standard for safety and training are miniscule. The AFL-CIO report detailed that the average penalty for workplace fatality cases was $6,100 by state OSHA inspectors, and $5,600 by federal OSHA inspectors. In criminal cases, where the penalties rendered include fines and possible prison time for “willful violations” that resulted in worker death, only 84 cases have been prosecuted since 1970, and defendants served only 89 total months in prison.

Our firm, Kafoury and McDougal, with the assistance of co-counsel Lourdes Sanchez, won $6.2 million for an Hispanic agricultural worker, Zeferino Vasquez, for a workplace accident that left him paralyzed. The 21-year-old Vasques was hurt during his shift for OR/PAC Feed and Storage where he made $9.15 an hour. The injury occurred while Vasquez was in operation of a hay bale slicer that was manufactured by Double Press Inc. who was the defendant in the lawsuit.

The jury found that the manufacturer was 60% responsible for Vasquez’s injuries. A lack of safety standards and training, including lack of safety training in Spanish for the mostly Hispanic workforce, was used as evidence against Double Press Inc. Double Press did not keep records of the injuries caused by their equipment and had not even reviewed OSHA regulations concerning their equipment.

After the verdict was rendered, Vasquez’s attorney Greg Kafoury pointed out that many of these types of agricultural accidents against Hispanic workers go undocumented or are not reported.

“These guys don’t have unions,” Kafoury said. “They are incredibly vulnerable. A lot of them have immigration issues, so they really are at the mercy of the machine makers and the employers… If you had this kind of injury pattern with white college kids working summer jobs, this industry would have been cleaned up in a heartbeat.”

UPDATE: Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore touched on the above statistics during the telecast on Tuesday, May 5th 2014. Check out the video of the segment from Comdey Central’s website here

Information for this blog was obtained using www.hispanictrending.net

Read Aimee Green’s article on the Vasquez verdict here

 

 

medicalsexabuse.com website launches

Posted in Sexual Abuse, You Ought To Know

Kafoury and McDougal is pleased to announce the launch of our new website medicalsexabuse.com. Our firm has successfully litigated some of the highest profile cases involving sexual abuse within the medical field. During these cases, we have found it can be extremely difficult for victims to come forward and challenge their sexual abusers. We offer this site as a resource for those who have been victimized, and to show that medical sex abuse is a serious, nationwide problem.

In our experience handling these types of cases, sexual predators have abused patients under the guise of a “necessary” medical exam in completely unnecessary situations. Many patients that feel they have been victimized by medical professionals either do not know their rights, are too afraid to come forward, or do not think that they will be believed. Medicalsexabuse.com offers local and national resources for patients in all 50 states who feel they have been victimized, but are unsure how to move forward. Our website lists helplines, trauma centers and counseling options for victims and those close to victims of sexual abuse.

Another resource of our website is a catalogue of doctors and medical professionals who have been charged, prosecuted or had their license suspended or revoked. We intend to give victims hope that coming forward will lead to criminal prosecutions and protect future patients.

Upon researching this topic over the last few years, we have found over a hundred sexual predators who were operating out of medical offices that have been arrested and charged with serious crimes. We hope this website will lead to more victims standing up to their abusers, which will greatly assist law enforcement officers in building their cases against sexual predators in the medical field.

Our site also offers an FAQ and Legal Rights section for people who seek answers to legal questions. We also offer a Contact Us form for people who would like to speak confidentially to any of our lawyers about any incident that happened to themselves, a friend or family member, or to report other instances of abuse that we should add to our online database.

Challenging one’s abuser is the first step towards recovery, and we want people to know that help is not far away.

The Oregon Clinic refuses to order staff to cooperate with sex abuse detectives

Posted in K&M in the News, Sexual Abuse

On March 10, 2015, our firm, Kafoury & McDougal, filed a sex abuse lawsuit against The Oregon Clinic.

In May last year, The Oregon Clinic, one of Oregon’s largest medical providers, was notified by police detectives that there was evidence than an unconscious patient had been sexually abused while sedated for a colonoscopy. Top officials at the clinic were aware that the patient was desperately anxious to learn what had been done to her, and who might have done it. A medical examination days after her procedure showed vaginal bruising and abrasions, both internal and external.

The detectives wanted to interview the members of the medical staff who had been in attendance during and after the procedure. But rather than insisting that their employees assist the police in this investigation, the clinic provided criminal lawyers to all those involved.

The attending physician was Jeffrey Weprin, who initially answered the questions of the investigating detective, primarily centered on the general procedures of the clinic. Attempts by the police to arrange a subsequent interview through his attorney were unsuccessful. Dr. Weprin’s medical staff, Scott Joliffe, Paul Still, and Norah Jensen, refused to be interviewed by the police.

The conduct of The Oregon Clinic in this case is virtually unheard of. Our firm, Kafoury & McDougal, has represented patients who have suffered abuse at the hands of medical providers against doctors, psychologists, medical clinics, ambulance companies, and hospitals throughout Oregon. We have represented medical sex abuse plaintiffs in California, and as far away as Missouri. We have never encountered a situation–nor have we even heard of a situation–where a professional medical organization arranged for its employees to remain silent in the face of an official investigation of predatory sexual abuse.

READ MORE

Aimee Green’s article on the pending lawsuit against The Oregon Clinic

Kafoury & McDougal victorious against AMR ambulance company 

Kafoury & McDougal victorious against Mid-Columbia Medical Center in the Dalles, OR

 

Shopping while Black: Institutionalized racism in “The Land of the Free”

Posted in False Arrest, K&M in the News, You Ought To Know

In August 2014, the popular New York luxury retailer Barneys settled a racial discrimination suit for $525,000. The suit claimed that the store falsely accused minority customers of credit card fraud and theft at a disproportionate rate compared to white shoppers. A CBS news article outlined the settlement, and the 9-month investigation that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his office conducted into the accusations of racial discrimination.

According to the investigation by Schneiderman’s office, Barneys disproportionately stopped, and accused black and Latino shoppers of shoplifting and credit card fraud. According to a press release from Schneiderman’s office, store detectives leaned on sales associates about potential credit card fraud by minority shoppers so aggressively, that some associates would intentionally not engage with minority shoppers to avoid being badgered by loss-prevention employees. Even minority customers who were identified as “regulars” were followed and harassed by in-store detectives and loss-prevention.

Barneys was also found to “…not have comprehensive written policies regarding racial profiling; use of objective, race-neutral criteria for investigating potential shoplifting and/or credit card fraud; use of excessive force and handcuffs, or treatment of detainees.” Barneys was found to have maintained “inadequate” records of the stops that loss-prevention employees had made. But despite the lack of records, Barneys employees were still found to have detained a disproportionate number of black and Latino shoppers.

Under the terms of the settlement, Barneys will:

-Retain an independent anti-profiling consultant with expertise in the prevention of racial profiling in loss prevention and asset protection;

-Establish new recordkeeping requirements on investigations, detentions and false stops conducted by loss-prevention employees;

-Limit access to its closed-circuit TV areas by local law enforcement officers and maintain records of visits by local law enforcement officers;

-Adopt new loss-prevention detention policies and a new anti-profiling policy;

-Develop and conduct anti-profiling training for loss-prevention and sales employees;

-Investigate customer complaints of profiling; and

-Pay $525,000 in costs, fees, and penalties.

The story of Barneys’ discrimination is just one of many across the country. Institutionalized racism does not always show itself as blatantly as in this case. Minority shoppers are routinely subjected to dirty looks, snarky comments, being followed around stores, watched on surveillance videos and having their receipts checked at the door. But recently, Multnomah County jurors have found large companies like Walgreens and H&M liable for falsely accusing and detaining African American shoppers.

In cases that our firm Kafoury & McDougal recently handled, jurors awarded Teresa White and her son Deante Strickland, a starting point guard for the Central Catholic basketball team, $67,000 in their claims for false arrest against Walgreens in 2013. Jurors awarded Brenda Moaning $105,000 for her claim of false arrest against H&M in 2014. But many of the same problems that plagued Barneys in New York were at the heart of these recent Multnomah County cases: A lack of written comprehensive policies regarding racial profiling, and a lack of adequate record keeping to ensure shoplifting accusations were properly investigated, both internally and externally.

This week, our law firm, as chronicled in Aimee Green’s article for the Oregonian, filed 6 lawsuits accusing national chains Best Buy, Walgreens, Walmart, Ross Dress for Less, Hollister Company, and the company that owns the movie theater inside Lloyd Center, Cypress Equities Managed Services, L.P. of racially discriminating against and unlawfully detaining African American shoppers.

Jurors who award large monetary damages can help bring justice to victims of racial discrimination, and also send a loud message to large corporations that institutional racism will not be tolerated. Check back in the coming months to see updates on where these lawsuits end up.

President Obama proposes $75 million in federal spending in support of police body cameras; Paramilitary policing a real threat

Posted in Judicial Decisions & Your Rights, K&M in the News, You Ought To Know

President Barak Obama recently proposed a $263 million federal spending package, $75 million of which would be used to fund putting body cameras on 50,000 police officers around the country. The remaining funds would be used to expand police training and reform programs in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri police officer who fatally shot unarmed Michael Brown back on August 9th, 2014. The grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, has led to protests around the country.

With the chaos that followed the Michael Brown killing, local and state police used military grade armored vehicles and weapons to halt or disperse local demonstrations, even those that were peaceful. Police bureaus around the country have employed the use of similar military grade weapons, body armor and mine-resistant armored vehicles during demonstrations and legal, non-violent protests. After the Michael Brown shooting in August, Obama ordered a review of federal programs that supply state and local police agencies with military grade weapons and vehicles, amid growing concern for their use on citizens domestically.

After the review, Obama ordered that the federal programs who equip local law enforcement agencies must work together with local law enforcement and concerned civil liberties groups to recommend changes. Five federal agencies have been authorized by Congress to supply local law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment and vehicles: The Department of Justice, Homeland Security, The Defense Department, the Treasury and the Office of National Drug Control.

According to a CBS News story, in the early 1990’s, surplus military grade weapons were supplied to local law enforcement to combat the drug trade in the U.S. In the early 2000’s, fears of domestic terrorism gave rise to an increase in both military gear and training for state and federal law enforcement agencies. Police officers and SWAT teams trained alongside soldiers to be sent to Afghanistan and Iraq to fight the war on terror. According to an ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) report, the amount of goods transferred through military surplus to local law enforcement agencies increased from $1 million in the early 1990’s, to over $450 million in 2013. One of the surplus military vehicles that has been supplied across the country is the MRAP vehicle (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected). This vehicle is designed to protect occupants from roadside mines and rocket/grenade attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, 610 MRAP’s have been distributed to law enforcement agencies across the country, including at least 9 in Los Angeles County. All 610 of them were distributed after August of 2013.

Michael Downing, the LAPD Deputy Chief who also heads the department’s counterterrorism and special operations bureau, argues that police are dealing with “an adversary who is more sophisticated, more tactically trained.” He went on to support paramilitary policing by stating that, “In police work there are times we have to become soldiers and control through force and fear… But we have to come back to being a public servant as quick as we can to establish that normality and that ethical stature with communities, because they’re the ones who give us the authority to do our police work.”

Is this the type of military equipment we want our local police forces to have? Should local police bureaus have access to these kinds of weapons and equipment, to be used against American citizens? These questions require a healthy public debate about how we want our local police departments to enforce the law.

 

READ MORE:

Download the ACLU’s PDF, “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Police” here

Read the CBS News story on Obama’s request for $75 million for police body cameras

Read the Oregonian story on Obama asking for federal support for body cameras on police officers, and the lack of executive support in disallowing military grade weapons and vehicles to be used by local law enforcement agencies.

Watch the video of Greg Kafoury discussing police body cameras on Koin 6 News.

Read the Oregon Progressive Party statement on the Ferguson, Missouri decision here

National support grows for body cameras on police officers

Posted in False Arrest, Judicial Decisions & Your Rights, Jury Verdicts, Political Corner, You Ought To Know

The time has come for the Portland City Council to approve the use of body video cameras on all Portland Police officers. The ineffectiveness of Portland Police review boards and internal affairs investigations have created a system where Portland Police officers can ignore their responsibilities as peacekeepers and civil servants. This allows officers to abuse citizens with no repercussions. Body cameras on officers may finally be the tool necessary to keep officers from assaulting tax-paying citizens, eliminating the he-said, she-said debate in which jurors give deference to police officers.

Since Kafoury & McDougal won the 2 largest jury verdicts ever against the City of Portland, and have reached the largest settlement with the City for police misconduct, all in the last two years, the subject of body video cameras on police officers has been moved to the forefront. Multnomah County juries hit the City for $562,000 for the Jason Cox case, $306,000 for the Gallagher Smith case and the City paid a $9.2 million settlement in the Cayla Wilson case. All of these cases shared a common theme:  Jurors had to decide between the word of the police against the word of the citizens involved, a problem that may no longer be a roadblock for lawsuits brought against the City if the Portland Police are required to use body cameras.

Police departments around the country have begun adopting policies requiring officers to wear body cameras, and the results have been encouraging. In Rialto, CA, the police department has seen a sharp decline in both complaints against officers, and use of force reports filed by officers. Since February 2012, complaints filed against officers have dropped 88%, while use of force reports have dropped almost 60%. In Portland, federal judge Michael Simon, in his adoption of the U.S. Department of Justice’s findings that call for police reform, wrote in favor of body cameras on Portland Police officers. Mayor Charlie Hales has also been outspoken about his support for body cameras on Portland Police officers. Read more on Mayor Hales’ opinion and judge Simon’s ruling here.

A thoughtful body camera program for Portland Police officers requires debate before implementation. Citizen’s civil liberties may be violated by the use of such cameras; invasions of privacy are a concern along with the possibility of police officers, administrators or others leaking the video content online or to news sources as a tactic to dissuade lawsuits against the police. Other questions that need to be addressed: Will police be able to turn their cameras on and off? Who will have access to the video content? How much storage space will be needed to store all the video content? And how secure will that information be? Will the public be allowed access to the video content? If so, how will that process work? All of these questions must be considered and debated before a policy can be implemented that requires officers to wear body cameras. Read more on the ACLU’s opinion on police body cameras here.

Update: Here’s a video interview I did with Colin O’Keefe of LXBN on the subject.