An account in The Oregonian this week of a bereaved mother suing both a property management company and a window blind manufacturer in the wake of the death of her 3-year-old daughter is drawing attention to yet another preventable household safety hazard.

According to the newspaper, the toddler was visiting a family friend with her mother in February 2015 “when she became entangled in a dangling cord.” The girl’s mother “was in the same room with her, but hadn’t realized what was happening until it was too late, said a lawyer for the estate.” The suit targets both the property management company that ran the apartment complex in Clackamas, and “blind manufacturer Newell Window Furnishings for allegedly allowing cords longer than 7-1/4 inches to hang from the window covering at the apartment complex” the newspaper reports. That length is the standard recommended by Parents for Window Blind Safety and other advocacy groups.

What is particularly striking about this case is the revelation that the management company allegedly failed “to remove dangerous cords from the apartment even after recalls and retrofitting efforts initiated by blinds makers in 1994 and again in 2000.” One has to ask, however, if the industry has been aware of this critical safety issue for more than 20 years, why are blinds with dangerously long cords still in apartments and homes anywhere?

I have written on many occasions about the scandal surrounding the millions of defective airbags manufactured by the Takata Corporation. These “have been linked to at least 13 deaths worldwide and more than 100 injuries,” according to The New York Times. The recall of some 60 million vehicles equipped with this faulty safety equipment is an ongoing scandal of truly global proportions.

An editorial published earlier this month in The Times, however, is a jarring reminder of what happens when the public’s attention wanders and pressure for change wanes. According to the newspaper “just 8.4 million affected cars had been repaired as of May 20… Last year, the secretary of transportation, Anthony Foxx, said an estimated 20 percent of recalled cars are never repaired, and perhaps more.”

That would be bad enough. But, shockingly: “even now, four automakers – Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi – are selling new cars that contain the faulty airbags, according to a new report by Democrats on the Senate Commerce Committee. And Fiat Chrysler and Toyota have refused to disclose which of their models contain the devices,” according to The Times. As an Oregon dangerous products attorney I find this stunning.

An illegal pass attempted by the driver of a semi-truck near Burns last week left the driver of an oncoming car dead and her passenger hospitalized in critical condition, according to The Oregonian.

The newspaper writes that the Oregon truck crash took place on US-20, near milepost 156. First responders arriving on the scene found the semi-truck “tangled with a Ford Focus to the side of the road.” Citing law enforcement sources, the paper reports that the truck “was towing a flatbed trailer westbound on the highway when (the driver) attempted to pass a slower motorhome in a no-passing area with double yellow lines.” The driver of the Focus, which was traveling in the eastbound lane “attempted to avoid the collision by swerving into a ditch, but (the truck) attempted the same maneuver… they crashed near the edge of the highway.”

The driver of the car died at the scene of the head-on semi-truck crash. Her passenger was flown to a Portland hospital with life-threatening injuries. The truck driver “was taken to the Harney County Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries,” the newspaper reports.

John Oliver made a big splash last weekend by highlighting the unsettling, and ridiculously lightly-regulated, world of medical debt collection, but a much longer and more serious story published a few days earlier by NPR adds significant depth to reporting on this undercovered issue.

The NPR piece (linked below) details how non-profit hospitals across the country have abused their tax-free status to pursue poor Americans in court. When discussions about universal health care take place in this country it is stories like these that we need to focus on: people who are driven into bankruptcy or who do not get the health care they need because they lack the money to pay outrageous medical bills. That these people are being hounded in court by institutions that also enjoy tax-free status is simply unconscionable.

A search at ProPublica, the public interest journalism website, yields tax filings for dozens of non-profit hospitals here in Oregon. As Oregon Public Broadcasting recently noted, that tax status is predicated on the idea that hospitals which are not in business to turn a profit will do substantial charity work and forgive medical debt whenever it is practical. Yet as OPB documents, between 2014 and 2015 the funds devoted to charitable health care dropped by more than a third here in Oregon, despite the fact that during this time period Obamacare was bringing many more low income patients into our state’s hospitals.

Something to consider as summer begins: According to The Oregonian there are “more than 300 carnival rides with valid permits in the state.” But it is worth asking what, exactly, those permits mean. Many Oregonians visiting a traveling carnival this summer may assume that the state permit posted prominently on each ride means it has been inspected by the by a government official for safe operation and maintenance. As the newspaper outlines, however, that is not really the case.

“When it comes to carnival ride regulation, Oregon falls somewhere in the middle, between California – a state with a dense thicket of amusement park and carnival regulations – and Alabama, where regulation is essentially nonexistent,” the newspaper reported recently. “Oregon doesn’t have a government-funded inspection program. Instead it relies on insurance companies to verify that each ride has been inspected and is ready for use.” Carnivals send the forms provided by their insurance companies to the state, pay a $28 fee and, in return, receive their permits from the Oregon Building Codes Division. While federal standards for carnival rides do exist (they are issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission) adherence to them is voluntary, The Oregonian reports.

According to the newspaper, Oregon is lucky in one respect: because Washington has much stricter rules, and because many inspectors work in both states, “almost by default, Oregon ends up following Washington’s more stringent regulations.” The same inspector would be paid by the carnival operator in Oregon but by the state inspections body when working in Washington.

Controversy over a $1.45 million settlement between the state and the families of two state employees who died in an Oregon highway crash in 2014 has caused some to lose sight of the real importance of the case. As The Oregonian reported over the weekend, the settlement was relatively large by Oregon standards, but, as lawyers consulted by the newspaper noted, that may be because “the (victims’) estates had a strong case against the state.”

According to the newspaper the couple, both employees of the Oregon State Hospital, died in the fall of 2014 “when a pickup veered across I-5 and hit… (their) 1993 Nissan Sentra head-on. From a legal perspective there were two especially important points to note about this Oregon wrongful death case. The first is something relatively rare – a successful lawsuit focused mainly on faulty road design. The second is the way that this incident demonstrates the careful weighing of responsibility our courts are called on to make in cases like this.

As The Oregonian writes, the argument that the man and woman’s deaths were the result mainly of faulty road design was particularly strong. “In the month after their deaths, an investigation by The Oregonian found that the Oregon Department of Transportation had delayed the installation of a median cable barrier on that 5-mile stretch of freeway despite public recognition of the need for it dating back to 1996.” Had a proper cable barrier been in place there is a strong possibility that the pickup would never have been able to cross all the way into the opposite lane.

As Portlanders prepared for the holiday weekend our city’s school system released a statement announcing plans to “turn off all of its drinking fountains and bring in bottled water for drinking and food preparation for the remainder of the school year,” according to an article in today’s Oregonian. The move follows the discovery of elevated lead levels in the water at two local schools: Rose City Park and Creston. What Friday’s statement does not address is why the city schools department has been slow to act – and less than candid with parents – concerning this threat to our children.

According to the newspaper, water at Rose City Park tested at “as much as double the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘action level’ of 15 parts per billion.” What has so many Portland parents concerned is the school Superintendent’s acknowledgement in an email last week that the city has known about this issue for eight weeks and neither turned off the water at the affected schools nor warned parents and employees while repairs were being made.

The city now says it intends to test all Portland’s schools over the summer break. That is critically late in and of itself, especially when one learns that “the last time Portland Public Schools did widespread water quality testing, 15 years ago, the results showed” 35 of the first 40 schools tested had “at least one location” with unacceptably high lead levels. Prior to that 2001 round of testing, the paper reports, “the last documented testing… had taken place in 1991.”

A newly published report from SafeKids, an organization which regular readers know I have long supported, takes many unsettling facts about teens and cars out of the realm of hearsay. The best way to prevent teen car-related deaths and injuries is to know how and why they occur in the first place. That makes this report essential reading for every Oregon parent.

The report summary begins with an uncomfortable figure: 2138… the number of teens killed in car crashes in 2014 (the most recent year for which full data is available). On the positive side, it notes that “from 1994 to 2013, the rate of teen drivers killed actually decreased by 61 percent” adding that this two decades of progress “demonstrates the effectiveness of prevention efforts by government, industry, the medical community and nonprofits in passing graduated licensing laws, engineering safer cars and raising public awareness about risky behaviors.”

The report goes on to state that “2014, however, saw the death rate begin to increase again and early estimates for 2015 suggest that may continue.” Its main prescription is more of the kind of education and public outreach that has been so effective over time. We have all heard the public information campaigns, but it still needs to be said, and repeated often: avoid distracted driving, don’t overload the car, don’t speed and, perhaps most importantly: always buckle up and never drink and drive.

A recent article in The Oregonian recounts the story of a 13-year-old Gresham girl severely injured late last month while she and a friend were crossing the street on their way home from school. According to the newspaper the seventh grader and a friend were using a marked crosswalk when a 44-year-old Gresham woman “ran a red light and hit the girls” with her delivery van.

One of the girls “suffered a significant brain injury and several fractures.” The eventual extent of her recovery remains uncertain. The other child was less seriously injured and has been released from the hospital.

The newspaper reports that friends of the severely injured girl’s family have set up a crowdfunding page to help them cope with what are likely to be years of significant expenses in the wake of this Oregon reckless driving crash involving injuries to two children (The Oregonian’s story below includes a link to the GoFundMe page).

A single-car crash last weekend near Arlington is drawing attention to the laws and legal issues surrounding seat belt use here in Oregon.

According to a report in The Oregonian the Interstate-84 fatal Oregon car crash took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, near milepost 132 when a 1999 Chevrolet SUV traveling in the westbound lane “for unknown reasons… left the roadway and crashed through the guardrail on the north side of the freeway.” The vehicle’s driver “was taken by Life Flight to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Washington, and he died on the way, according to state police.”

The vehicle also was carrying a passenger, a 23-year-old Portland man. According to the newspaper he was taken the OHSU hospital where he was admitted in critical condition.