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Matthew D. Kaplan

Statistics show that the water can be a dangerous place for children… even older ones. A few years ago, a study placed drowning as the third-leading cause of death among teens ages 15-17. More recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control declared that, for “children ages 1–14, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death after motor vehicle crashes.” If that kind of horrible loss occurs due to the carelessness of adults or businesses, then those people and entities should be held to account. A knowledgeable Oregon wrongful death lawyer can offer essential advice and representation in doing just that.

A few months ago, The Oregonian again covered the story of the tragic 2019 drowning death of a 14-year-old high-school swimmer in Hillsboro. This most recent coverage dealt with the family’s wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed in circuit court here in Portland, alleged failures by many people and groups, including the school district, the city of Hillsboro, and the manufacturer of the pool’s cover.

The lawsuit indicated that, on the day of the girl’s death, her team’s coach instructed her and some teammates to grab a pool cover, swim with it to the deep end of the pool, then swim back to the shallow end while beneath the cover.

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Even while incarcerated in Oregon, a person has certain basic human and civil rights, including the right (secured by the Eighth Amendment) to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. That right includes things like being free from “deliberate medical neglect” as a prisoner or being sexually assaulted by prison staff members. When those in charge deny those basic rights to inmates, the victim(s) may be able to pursue and win a civil rights lawsuit. Doing so often requires deep knowledge of the law and the process, which means that most any such case would benefit from the services of an experienced Oregon jail civil rights lawyer to maximize the chances of success.

Coffee Creek Correctional Facility is Oregon’s lone women’s prison. Regrettably and inexcusably, Coffee Creek has been a site of recurring sexual abuse of prisoners almost from its opening in 2001. Starting in 2002 and continuing for several years, the prison landscape manager and three others sexually abused numerous inmates, leading to civil settlements between the state and 17 of those victims, according to The Oregonian.

Sadly, the abuse did not end there. Earlier this month, The Oregonian reported that Coffee Creek’s former prison nurse entered a plea on dozens of charges related to sexual assaults during his time working at the prison. The indictment included 21 charges related to the man’s sexual misconduct and four counts of perjury.

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Even with modern technology and today’s safety rules and regulations, industrial accidents occur too often, leading to the deaths of thousands of workers each year. For some workers injured in industrial accidents, the sole avenue of recourse may be the workman’s compensation system. For many others, though, the law may allow them to pursue something called a “third-party industrial accident claim.” These kinds of legal actions can be especially complicated, so be sure that, before you start, you have on your side an experienced Oregon industrial accident lawyer with the specialized knowledge necessary for your case.

An explosion in northeastern Oregon serves as a recent reminder of the continued frequency — and danger — of these types of workplace incidents. The site was a potato chip processing plant in Umatilla County, just south of Hermiston. The Oregonian reported that a boiler explosion triggered a massive fire that gutted the facility.

The good news is that no one died and no one suffered serious injuries. The bad news is that, two weeks after the fire burned the plant down, the employer laid off all 230 people who worked there, according to the Associated Press.

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The commercials talk about your being “in good hands” or that they’re “like a good neighbor” but, too many times, insurance companies are not the reliable helpers they advertise, especially if that help involves paying you everything you’re owed on a claim. When your insurance company has unreasonably and unfairly denied your claim, a knowledgeable Oregon auto accident lawyer can help you assess exactly what your options are.

Regarding those options when an insurance company acted in bad faith, a recent ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals may have expanded them even more, opening the door to recovery of noneconomic damages.

The underlying dispute involved a man who died when his friend accidentally shot him during a camping trip. After the man’s tragic passing, his wife filed a claim with their life insurance company, Federal Insurance. The insurance company denied the wife’s claim on the $3,000 policy.

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Getting everything that you’re owed after you’ve been seriously injured (or a loved one has been killed) in a vehicle accident can involve a long list of battles. Some of those battles may involve taking on your own auto insurer when they seek to avoid paying what they should. Whether you’re taking on an at-fault driver’s legal team or you’re taking on your insurance company, it pays to have an experienced Oregon auto accident lawyer on your side fighting these battles with you.

These battles can be especially important — and especially challenging — when your accident presents a need for a large sum in compensation.

A recent case involving several people injured in auto accidentsBatten v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance — makes for a good example of what we mean. One of those injured people, T.B., was severely hurt in a head-on crash. A different driver hit J.C. while he rode his bicycle, causing injuries that eventually killed him. Another driver hit the car in which L.C. was a passenger, causing severe injuries, and C.R. was a pedestrian severely injured when a fourth driver hit him.

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Here in Portland, an average of more than 5 people died in traffic crashes each month in 2021. Statewide, that number was nearly 50 per month. With more than 580 people dying on Oregon’s roads each year, that leaves hundreds of families harmed as others’ negligence resulted in the wrongful death of their loved ones. This means years of pain and anguish, a lifetime of lost companionship, and a lifetime of lost support. The totality of the damage to your family can be massive, and our Oregon wrongful death lawyers are here to help.

Even here in 2022, the fatalities continue apace. Just last Wednesday, a Willamette Valley man died in a pedestrian accident. Emergency responders indicated that, shortly before 8:00 am, an 84-year-old man behind the wheel of a Dodge pickup truck collided with a 61-year-old man on foot northeast of downtown McMinnville, according to a KPTV report.

Here in Portland, pedestrian deaths in 2021 totaled 27, the highest number in 50 years, according to a report from The Oregonian. The total number of traffic deaths in this city jumped from 54 in 2020 to 63 last year. Statewide, the number jumped from 483 in 2020 to 581 last year.

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No one deserves to die locked in a cage while suffering a slow, excruciating death caused by an untreated medical problem and exacerbated by jail authorities’ indifference to that inmate’s desperate pleas for treatment. Yet, all too often, that’s exactly what happens to incarcerated people in Oregon and across the United States. Federal law says that, when this happens, the harm that that prisoner suffered may constitute a violation of their civil rights. If you have a loved one to whom this happened then, with the aid of the right Oregon jail medical neglect lawyer, the civil justice system may offer help for your family.

Back in November, Reason published a piece about the medical neglect occurring in Arizona’s jails. Reason, of course, is a publication grounded in the Libertarian political viewpoint, but one need not be a Libertarian for the November piece to resonate.

The stories divulged are depressingly similar. In the very first paragraph, the piece lists multiple examples, including a paraplegic man who was “left to deteriorate” to such an extreme extent that an amputation ultimately was necessary, a woman with multiple sclerosis whose MS was “ignored and misdiagnosed” so egregiously that she ended up nearly totally paralyzed, and a man whose “undiagnosed, untreated lung cancer” caused him to lose 90 pounds and ultimately die “slowly and agonizingly without any pain medication.”

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The link below will take you to an article from the Yamhill News-Register covering five deaths that occurred in a six year period at the Yamhill County Jail.  In addition to the closed Jed Hawk Myers case, I am currently representing family members in three cases against Yamhill County and Wellpath, their contracted medical provider, for Civil Rights violations resulting in the death of folks who had not been convicted of any crime.  It doesn’t take very long to realize there is some commonality to these cases.

In the case of Kathy Norman, both the Yamhill County Sheriff’s deputies and the Wellpath Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) on duty were fully aware that Ms. Norman was beginning to detox from alcohol; they had been told by the ER providers, the transporting police officer, and Ms. Norman herself.  They also knew that detoxing from alcohol can be easily and successfully treated with medication.  They knew that the condition of folks detoxing from alcohol can change rapidly and can be deadly.  Nonetheless, they accepted custody of Ms. Norman and then never evaluated her detox symptoms or took any vital signs.  The Norman case has some similarities to the Jed Hawk Myers and Debbie Samples cases from 2015 and 2016.  All these cases involved detainees who were identified to be medically vulnerable and who needed to be lodged in a cell with video surveillance.  In both the Myers and Norman cases, they were put into these cells without any vital signs being taken, and no effort by anyone to return to get that crucial information.  In both the Norman and Myers cases deputies simply looked through the very narrow glass window in the cell door to do “security checks”. Security checks involve a deputy looking long enough (about 2 seconds) to make sure the person in the cell is present and alive.  These are not checks designed to obtain medical information.  In both Myers and Norman, it took them being on the floor and not breathing before anyone entered their cells to check on them.  In both the Samples and Norman cases, hospital providers communicated to the jail staff the need for specific care and conditions to watch out for; Samples being suicidal and Norman detoxing from alcohol.  Tragically in both situations, that advice went largely ignored and resulted in the preventable deaths from the exact conditions the Sheriff’s office was warned of.  Myers, Samples, and Norman needed to be checked on more frequently and with more attention until they were stable, or sent to an appropriate medical provider where they could get the necessary care.  Jail policies call for different levels of checks in terms of increments of time.  All inmates are checked by deputies at less than one-hour intervals; medical and suicide checks can be in 30 or 15 minute increments.  None of the victims were looked at any more often than any other detainees with no medical issues.

The county will say they have contracted with Wellpath and that they rely on them to deal with all medical issues.  “They are the experts…” But jail policies and Oregon laws state that ultimately inmate healthcare is still the county’s responsibility.  After all, it was only five months prior to Ms. Norman’s death that Sheriff Svenson wrote an editorial in the Yamhill County News Register taking full responsibility for Mr. Myers’ and Ms. Samples’ deaths.  “The buck stops here”, he wrote.  Apparently, that is just until the next jail death or his re-election comes along, as there have been three more deaths since that confessional editorial.  After Ms. Norman’s death, Sheriff Svenson was quoted in the local paper saying there is “zero indication” the staff was negligent in anyway.  He went on to praise the medical provider saying, “the contractor is doing a great job.” and “it’s nice to know there is a nurse in the jail at all times. It’s been very good.” While it is good to have someone with some medical training, it is too much for one LPN to take on alone.  There are times when the LPN is not able to closely monitor those in medical because the nurse often has to spend hours passing out medication to the other inmates and/or may be over at the juvenile facility.  How can this be Sheriff Svenson’s response when both medical and Yamhill County deputies knew Ms. Norman was detoxing, yet they took no vitals, took no detox history, did no detox evaluation, did not closely monitor her, withheld medication, and never called the ER staff for more information they might need to treat her.  They just locked her into the cell, never entered her cell to check on her condition, and failed to give her lifesaving medication.

The February death of a worker at a winery in Dundee, Oregon has resulted in a fine of more than $11,000 being levied by the state Occupational Safety and Health Agency. An OSHA statement issued late last week offered the basic facts of the case, but also left several key questions open.

According to media reports, the victim was a 39-year-old McMinnville man employed as a cellar worker at Corus Estates & Vineyards. The OSHA statement details how the man suffocated and then fell into a 30,000 gallon wine tank as he was moving a portion of the wine from that tank to another. Servicing the tank involved going into a confined space where “low-pressure nitrogen gas was being pumped in from the top of the tank to prevent oxidation of the remnants,” the agency statement explains. “The employee was asphyxiated as a result of the displacement of oxygen due to the low-pressure nitrogen gas in the tank.” After falling in, the worker was found unresponsive.

The total fine of $11,100 was broken down into several parts by the agency, and the details of those elements makes interesting reading. By far the largest portion of the fine – $7500 – was assessed for failing to test the air in the space around the tank before the job got underway and failing to have an attendant and an entry supervisor monitor the work, as required by law. Separate fines of $1200 each were imposed for failures to review and practice safety and rescue procedures, failure to properly renew the required permits and failures of employee training, including not offering safety information in Spanish.

The video is horrific. It shows two toddlers playing on a Peloton treadmill, apparently without adult supervision. The younger of the two, a boy, tries to place a ball on the treadmill’s moving belt and is almost immediately pulled underneath the still-running machine. He manages to extract himself only to be pulled back in a few seconds later – this time further underneath the machine and with his neck bent at a frightening angle.

The whole thing lasts about a minute and at the end the small boy frees himself again before walking out of the picture. The video was posted to the internet by the Consumer Product Safety Commission more than two weeks ago. According to CNN “the agency issued an ‘urgent warning’ for users of the machine. At the time the CPSC said it was aware of at least 39 accidents involving the treadmill including ‘multiple reports of children becoming entrapped, pinned and pulled under’ the device.”

Peloton initially pushed back, calling the CPSC warning “inaccurate and misleading” according to CNN, but reversed course last week, agreeing to recall some 125,000 of the treadmills. Meanwhile, updated CPSC data now indicate that at least one child has died and 70 others have been injured by the devices, which cost between $2500 and $4300.

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