"I got into an accident and was nervous about finding a personal injury attorney after hearing so many awful stories, but from the start, I felt confident with my choice in Kaplan Law, LLC." Read More - Ben
"Matt and Gillian took great care of me during a stressful time of my life. Very caring and knowledgeable group. I would definitely recommend Kaplan Law!" Read More - Kayleigh
"Incredible service and results! Matthew Kaplan and his paralegal Gillian did an amazing job for me. Not only did they resolve my case beyond my satisfaction, they also were very caring and supportive thru my recovery. I couldn't ask for a better attorney." Read More - Jamal
Matthew D. Kaplan

Following up on my recent blog about the dangers in Oregon’s system of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage an incident on Interstate-5 near Olympia, Washington is bringing similar issues into focus north of the Columbia River.

According to The Olympian an arraignment is scheduled to take place next week for a man “whose vehicle crashed into a 16-year-old Oregon girl” killing her and injuring both the driver himself and two other people. The 40-year-old man from Poulsbo, Washington faces vehicular homicide charges “as well as four counts of reckless endangerment.”

The newspaper reports that the accident took place when one car, which multiple witnesses described as driving erratically, hit two other cars that were stopped in a breakdown lane and waiting for assistance. The 16-year-old who had been driving one of those cars was killed in the accident and her mother was seriously injured. Two other people – the girl’s uncle and brother – were not injured. Also injured was the driver of the erratic car along with his 8-year-old daughter.

An article published a few days ago in The Oregonian offers a good opportunity for us to examine the problems with Oregon’s systems for dealing with uninsured and underinsured motorists.

The newspaper reports that “a 29-year-old driver who lost control of his car and hit several parked vehicles, causing traumatic injuries to one of his passengers” fled the scene of the accident on foot and was arrested several days later. The accident took place on 92ndAvenue near the intersection with Powell Boulevard in Southeast Portland. The newspaper quotes police saying a 34-year-old woman was hospitalized with life threatening injuries after the incident. The woman’s fiancé was also injured.

The driver “is accused of two counts of felony failure to perform duties of a driver to injured persons” according to The Oregonian. We do not know for certain, but the driver’s decision to flee strongly implies that he was either uninsured or underinsured. As most readers of this blog are probably aware, Oregon and Washington both require every driver to purchase insurance with a minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage.  Those insurance policies almost always provide coverage against being hit by an uninsured and underinsured motorist for the same $25,000.

A recent article in The Oregonian outlined what has become a depressingly common story: the abrupt disappearance of Saudi Arabian students facing criminal charges here in Oregon. The newspaper reports that it “has found criminal cases involving at least five Saudi nationals who vanished before they faced trial or completed their jail sentence in Oregon.”

The suspects “include two accused rapists, a pair of hit-and-run drivers and one man with child porn on his computer.” A 2014 case detailed by the newspaper fits the pattern: shortly after the man’s arrest a Saudi diplomat appeared at the local district attorney’s office to post bail for the accused student. Having made bail and been released the defendant later failed to appear for his trial. As the newspaper puts it, the “cases raise new questions about the role the Saudi government may have played in assisting its citizens fleeing prosecution in Oregon – or possibly elsewhere in the United States.”

Any conduct along those lines would be a serious violation of diplomatic norms. Questions like that lie outside the scope of this blog, but there are other issues raised by these cases that are of immediate concern to us here.

In an exciting development for area cyclists, The Oregonian reports that Portland’s city council has “blessed a plan to build a protected two-way bike path on North Greeley Avenue between Interstate 5 and Swan Island.” The $1.9 million project will involve repaving Greeley as part of the construction process. If everything goes according to plan the path will be open in the fall of 2019.

The path will be a significant addition to Portland’s cycling infrastructure, creating a protected cycleway to replace what the newspaper says “might be one of the most dangerous bike lanes in Portland.” I have written in the past about the dangers of cycling on North Greeley. A video on The Oregonian’s website aptly illustrates what a hair-raising experience a ride along this road currently is. Traffic speeds past on a road where the existing shoulder is narrow and in poor condition. The paper notes that “two bicyclists have been seriously injured on the stretch of road between 2007 and 2016.”

Oregon already has strict laws designed to protect cyclists. ORS 811.050 designates failure to yield to a cyclist in a bike lane as a Class B traffic violation (meaning it incurs a fine of up to $1000). That is important to keep in mind on North Greeley where even after the new bike path is constructed drivers headed south will have to cross the bike lane as they enter the I-5 onramp.

Last month I wrote about the problems plaguing Portland’s Unity Center for Behavioral Health.  According to The Oregonian, serious reports of neglect and abuse began to emerge almost as soon as the facility opened in 2017. In short order there was evidence of at least 16 incidents that ought to have been reported to police but were not. Now, only a few weeks later, the center is in the news again, with the paper reporting that its director has stepped down. “Legacy Health, which operates Unity, gave no explanation for her departure… although she will stay on as an advisory member of the Unity Board of Managers.”

As the paper outlines, “within the first month of opening, Unity staff reported instances of neglect and abuse within the facility. A federal and state investigation, started in spring 2018, eventually found that staff were poorly trained and underworked.” This, at what was routinely described as one of the state’s premier mental health facilities.

This incident raises serious questions about Oregon’s regulation and oversight of health care facilities. I have been covering the issue in this blog for several years and, more importantly, it has been the subject of some excellent investigative reporting by a number of Oregon media outlets. It is worth asking, however, why these issues never seem to go away. The mandatory reporting obligations of almost all staff members and even many of the people simply passing through a facility like Unity (medical or law enforcement professionals who might visit, for example) ought to offer strong protection for patients but, clearly, they do not (see links below for more information on mandatory reporting as well as the numbers to call to report abuse and neglect). This is where Oregon’s civil and criminal laws enter the picture. They are designed to prevent abuse in nursing homes, mental care centers and similar facilities.

A 23-year-old Woodburn woman was arrested and charged with a series of offenses after a single-car accident in Clackamas County. According to The Oregonian the accident took place a few days before Christmas on Highway 211 near South Palmer Road. The woman “is accused of second-degree manslaughter, fourth-degree assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and recklessly endangering another stemming from a single-car crash that killed one of her three passengers.”

The newspaper reports that the vehicle “veered off the road and struck a tree.” One of the passengers, a 26-year-old Woodburn man, died at the scene of the accident. The driver and the other two passengers were all taken to OHSU hospital, where the driver was later arrested.

New Year’s Eve is next Monday. That means that for many people one of the most dangerous nights of the year to be out on the roads will also be part of an extra-long holiday weekend. As is always the case over New Year’s there will be many options involving both public transport and taxi/ride share systems to help people get home safely. A number of these can be found by clicking the KATU-TV link below.

This week The Oregonian carried the extraordinary story of a man who “was arraigned on 34 charges for allegedly recording colleagues at the Banana Republic Factory Store” on NE Cascades Parkway near the Portland airport. The 34-year-old allegedly placed hidden cameras in the women’s restroom at the store and recorded video of dozens of partially naked women, including children.

What is especially shocking is the revelation that the man had faced similar allegations at his previous job as a pharmacist with Kaiser Permanente. Last month the suspect “was arraigned on 71 similar charges for allegedly recording 51 men and women using the unisex bathrooms and changing rooms at the Kaiser Permanente facility” on Portland’s Northeast 138thAvenue. The man was fired after another employee “found a camera” in one of the bathrooms.

The article notes that some of the employees from the Banana Republic store are considering a civil suit. Two areas bear particularly close examination. First, there is the question of whether the Banana Republic store did everything it could to prevent this man, or anyone else, from invading employees’ privacy by installing secret cameras in the restroom. We need to know more about the nature of the cameras, where they were positioned, how they operated and how long they were in place. Most importantly, we need to consider what the store could have done to prevent this and other forms of employee misconduct. The U.S. Department of Labor’s website on workplace health and safety (see link below) lays out the standards all employers are expected to uphold. Difficult questions clearly need to be asked about how the store managed to get itself into this position in the first place.

A recent investigation by The Oregonian found “that county employees had received reports of serious neglect or abuse” at what the newspaper describes as the city’s “premier mental health facility,” the Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Northeast Portland. These reports began to come in “within months of its opening in 2017.” In 16 cases “a police report should have been filed but none was found.”

This scandal fits a wider pattern that I have been writing about for several years. In day care centers, prisons and, now, mental health facilities people who have a legal obligation to watch for abuse are failing to do so. As I noted in a blog more than a year ago, laws that we often think of as focused on child abuse are, in fact, designed to protect vulnerable people more generally. Section 419B.005 of Oregon’s legal code sets standards for care and extends these to all forms of abuse and neglect. This state statute compliments 42 USC 1983, part of the federal legal code. Together, they make protection from abuse a civil right.

It offers little reassurance that once the cases were uncovered a spokesman for the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office told The Oregonian “thankfully that number (16) is relatively low compared to what we fear we may find.”

An article published this week in The Oregonian focuses on the death of a Jefferson County inmate earlier this year. The newspaper reports that a county judge acquitted three local jail officials on charges of criminally-negligent homicide. Yet the judge also ruled that the officers’ “failure to get medical care for (the inmate) was a ‘gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would have done in this situation.” The clear contradiction between these two conclusions is even more troubling because things like this have happened in Oregon before.

The Oregonian reports that evidence presented at the trial showed that the inmate had been both vomiting and defecating blood for hours before he passed away (the paper reports that the Oregon medical examiner identified a stomach ulcer as the cause of death). A doctor who submitted written testimony for the trial concluded that more timely treatment would have saved the man’s life.

Yet, despite all of this, the court concluded that “there wasn’t enough evidence” linking inaction by the three officers to the man’s death to make the case legally solid. Despite their “deliberate indifference” toward the inmate’s well-being, the guards, according to the judge, bear no legal responsibility for his death. This is outrageous.

Bike share programs have become popular across the country, and it is no surprise that famously bike-friendly Portland is part of the trend. That’s why the news that Motivate, the company that runs Biketown (and many other bike share programs nationwide), has a new owner should be of interest to anyone who cares about Portland as a cycling community.

The buyer is Lyft, a company best known for its car-hailing app. The Oregonian quotes a company statement promising “to help take bike share to the next level” with more bikes and more docking stations. With a single company running the bike share programs in cities across the country there is also the potential for rentals to become nearly seamless nationwide.

But Lyft’s emergence as a major player in bike share also raises questions. Let’s start with maintenance. When you return a rental car it is checked before being sent back out with another customer. When you roll a share bike into a docking station it usually just sits there until someone else checks it out or until the bike share operator moves it to a different location (regular and systematic redistribution of the bikes is a key element of any successful share program). Clearly no one is going to select a bike from the docking station if it has serious, visible damage. But there have always been legal questions about how bike share companies should deal with more subtle mechanical problems. Gears, the chain and the brakes can all be damaged in ways not immediately visible to someone who knows little about bike maintenance. It is worth asking what steps are being taken to guarantee a safe ride for bike share customers.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email: matthew@mdkaplanlaw.com
map image