Archive for December, 2007

SE Portland Mother Killed on Sidewalk

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

It’s gut wrenching to read this. A mother of three kids, Angela Buyas, was run over and killed by a 21-year old driver late Tuesday night on SE Stark in Portland. She was walking. On the sidewalk.

According to news reports, the driver, lost control of his vehicle due to speed and intoxication. That’s fairly sanitized. So a speeding drunken driver decimated a family. It’s another tragic driving under the influence story. This one is even more poignant because the children earlier lost their father, and are now orphaned.

The takeaway from this horror is that alcohol + driving = disaster.

David F. Sugerman

Washington Trial Judge Disciplined for Slurs

Monday, December 10th, 2007

According to an Associated Press news report, the Washington Commission on Judicial Conduct censured Clark County Superior Court Judge John P. Wulle. In a public training session in Los Angeles last year, Judge Wulle reportedly referred to one speaker as, “the black gay guy.” At the same forum, when the Clark County team–including Judge Wulle–was awarded a star for their performance, Judge Wulle loudly declaimed that he didn’t need a star because, “I’m not a Jew.”

I imagine it’s tough being a judge because you’re held to a higher standard. But there’s good reason for that. It’s hard to imagine that if you’re black, gay or Jewish, you would be eager to have Judge Wulle decide your case.

Judge Wulle was ordered to undergo alcohol evaluation–some witnesses at the conference suggested that he smelled of alcohol. Judge Wulle disputes that alcohol was involved, saying instead that he had taken cough medicine. I have to say that as a trial lawyer, I would have derived more comfort from an admission of alcohol abuse, as it seems a lot less chilling than thinly concealed racial, religious and sexual orientation prejudices.

According to the news report, Judge Wulle was initially dismissive of complaints about his conduct. While he has since issued an apology of sorts–as in I didn’t mean to offend anyone–it seems like there’s a shortage of insight and willingness to confront some nastiness. Judge Wulle must also undergo judicial ethics and diversity training. Here’s hoping it opens his eyes, as everyone deserves a judge who can be fair.

David F. Sugerman

Bush Mortgage Bail Out: Thin at Best

Friday, December 7th, 2007

With great fanfare, President Bush announced yesterday a new program that would freeze adjustable rate mortgage increases on subprime mortgages. Sounds great, until you review the fine print.

The freeze in rate increases is only available for those with subprime mortgages. Further, it is only available for those who are current on their mortgages and only if there has been no increase already.

A number of lenders went to great lengths to lend money, including using artificially lower interest-only adjustable rate mortgages, mortgages with tremendous balloons, and artificially discounted teaser rates.

The Bush plan applies to an estimated 10 to 15 percent of borrowers who are at risk of foreclosure. That’s thin, at best.

At the same time, regulation of lending is lax at best. Oregon, for example, sets no legal underwriting standards. Oregon allows lenders to penalize early payment. Oregon allows refinancing even when doing so does not benefit the lender.

For those who qualify, the President’s provision may provide some breathing room. On the other hand, it may merely create future problems for those who get the benefit of the freeze. Regardless, you have to wonder what they were intending to do when they created this great bailout for 10 percent of consumers who are at risk.

David F. Sugerman

Ford Recalls SUVs, Vans and Trucks for Engine Flaw

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

Through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, Ford announced the recall of some 1.2 million SUVs, vans and trucks for an electrical system problem that can cause engine stalls. According to the NHTSA web site, the camshaft position sensor located on the engine of the vehicle may function intermittently, possibly resulting in an engine stall and crash.

Affected vehicles are equipped with the 7.31 diesel engine for the Ford E Series, Excursion, F-450 Superduty and F-550 Superduty for model years 1997-2003.

David F. Sugerman

Federal Jury Finds for Oregon Welder in Toxic Injury Case

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

A federal jury in Cleveland, Ohio found that an Oregon welder suffered serious injuries from exposure to toxic welding fumes. For years, welders have claimed that manganese fumes from welding causes profound damage to the nervous system. The problems appear similar to Parkinson’s disease, with brain damage that affects movement and memory.

Approximately 3,000 cases are pending in Cleveland. Previously, the manufacturers had won most cases; however, the multi-million dollar verdict in this case may represent a turning point in the litigation.

In this era of mass-production, when many people are injured by the same misconduct, there seems to be a fairly predictable pattern in litigation. In almost all cases, the company wins the early cases because it is hard for injured consumers to fully investigate and understand what happened. Later cases build upon the early failures, and consumers or workers often break through with a major victory. At that point, it is not unusual for consumers and workers to achieve a critical mass that allows them to establish higher and higher verdict values by repeatedly trying cases for the same injuries.

Perhaps this is victory represents a turning point for welding workers who are seeking justice.

David F. Sugerman