December 31st, 2009
The plan has been in place for a while. Still, I have avoided thinking about this last blog post. For many reasons–mostly related to age and stage and needs–Paul & Sugerman, PC ended its operations today, December 31, 2009. This is a quiet farewell.
The firm started in 1991, when two well-meaning, youthful friends resolved that working for other lawyers invariably came to a bad end. And so we set out.
A small law firm spanning nearly two decades is a rare thing these days. We both have stories, with plenty of laughs, a few tears, big victories and tough losses. We had a good run that lasted 19 years. Over that time, David Paul and I were privileged to work for consumers, children, workers, and small businesses.
The good news is that our work will continue. David Paul and I will open our solo practices in the same office in downtown Portland. As one of our street musicians used to bellow to passing crowds, “Thank you very much. It’s great to be back at the corner of 6th and Alder.” Like a bad comedian, we’ll be there all week.
Find out more about David Paul’s solo practice by going to davidpaullaw.com. Find out more about my solo practice by going to davidsugerman.com.
So for those who follow this blog, it will continue at davidsugerman.com. I’ll be getting back to regular updates once we get the bugs out of the new web page. Other than an ocassional update linking to the new blog, this one is going inactive after today.
December 30th, 2009
Here is a video of an NBC Nightly News story that aired December 30, 2009 about Army National Guard soldiers’ exposures to sodium dichromate in Iraq. The video features two soldiers, Larry Roberta of the Oregon National Guard and Russ Kimbro from the Indiana National Guard.
Larry is part of the group of Oregon National Guard soldiers pursuing claims in federal court in Bixby v. KBR. It’s easy to see from the video that the filming took a lot out of him.
Even though he was fighting major challenges, Larry stepped up to represent the Oregon National Guard. Words like “duty” mean something to these soldiers. Their service and quiet resolve inspire me. It’s an honor to do what I can in this case in return by serving as their attorney.
It’s a good telling of the story by two soldiers. They provide a good feel for what our troops faced while serving in Iraq. And as for KBR’s responses, I have some definite thoughts on that. But it’s best to just leave that for trial.
December 13th, 2009
Brent Hunsberger, a business columnist at The Oregonian, writes here about the trouble with for-profit colleges. He devotes a fair amount of his attention to Western Culinary Institute, or as it’s now called, Le Cordon Bleu in Portland. He runs through some numbers unearthed in the class action against Western Culinary Institute and its parent, Career Education Corp. Sobering reading.
For all prospective students at a for-profit colleges and their families, I can recommend Hunsberger’s analysis as a must read.
Something interesting about the case. Counsel for Western Culinary Institute and Career Education Corp used the column to defend the schools practices. It makes for interesting reading. And for those closely following this case, I imagine there is some hope that I will respond.
I won’t. That’s because I prefer to try the case in the court room. Not in the press. Fair to say that we expect to dismantle these arguments and look forward to trial when we will present our evidence and argue the case.
I will share two observations. First, we push our kids and tout the benefits of education. That’s a good thing. But this for-profit education industry changes things. Going to college should not be like buying a used car. Students should be able to trust that schools are giving them accurate and complete information about what they are buying.
The other observation is that we trust the jury and that’s really all I need to say.
December 12th, 2009
Yesterday, Judge Richard Baldwin ruled that Comcast Oregon’s cable TV subscribers may seek statutory damages in their pending class action. Here is a pdf copy of the trial court’s opinion: Judge Baldwin Order & Opinion re amended class cert order. The upshot is that subscribers included in the late fee class action can seek $200, if they can prove that Comcast knowingly or recklessly violated Oregon’s late fee billing requirements.
As with other rulings in the case, it’s important to keep this in context. Judge Baldwin ruled only that the class can make the claim for statutory damages of $200 per class member. He did not rule on the merits. It will be up to a jury to decide whether Comcast knowingly or recklessly violated Oregon law.
Still, it’s great progress on the case. Of course, it raises the stakes substantially, so I imagine this means that Comcast will continue the long fight in this case that was first filed in 2004. For the present, Tim Quenelle and I are simply pushing ahead on case preparation and looking forward to our day in court.
December 9th, 2009
Here’s a nice summary of the case from a KGW8 news report. The story aired yesterday on Channel 8. The link is to their web version. Kudos to Anne Yaeger at KGW who did a heck of a job putting together a substantive story so quickly. Interestingly, the students interviewed are eager about their prospects. But it’s not clear whether they realize their repayment obligations and what their likely future wages are yet, as they haven’t yet gotten out into the field.
In the story, the school continues to claim that it sells entry level training. Their ads don’t really say that, though if you look carefully through their recent catalogues, you’ll find that disclaimer. But the entry level training argument is a problem.
The problem is that they don’t tell students that their training provides no meaningful advantage in getting an entry level job in the trade. Those are jobs that are available to people who have no culinary training. And of course, when you get an entry level job off the street, you don’t have high interest debts of $40,000 or more.
What’s missing here is that higher education is supposed to be about opportunities. When students take on massive debt to pursue a college or technical degree, shouldn’t they be able to trust that the school is giving them a straight story?
P.S.-If you attended Western Culinary Institute on or after March of 2006 and you want more information about the case, feel free to contact us using the links on this web page. I can’t respond to questions about the case in our comments section.
December 5th, 2009
Yesterday, Judge Baldwin issued his decision allowing the consumer fraud case against Western Culinary Institute to go forward as a class action. It’s a long opinion that focuses on the details of class action rules, but it also provides information on what the students claim in the case. I’ve uploaded a pdf scan of the court’s letter opinion here: Judge Baldwin ltr opinion class cert 3 Dec 2009
This is a big victory for former students of the school. Now the case will move forward as a class action.
A few things to understand about Judge Baldwin’s ruling. He certified only the Unlawful Trade Practice Act and common law fraud claims. He denied certification on the breach of contract and unjust enrichment claims. What that means is that the class action will be limited to students who were enrolled at the Portland campus of Western Culinary Institute on or after March 2006. Students who graduated before March 2006 are not eligible to participate in the class action.
The other thing is that Judge Baldwin’s ruling isn’t a decision on the merits of the case. All that he been decided is that the students may pursue the case as a class action. It will be up to a Multnomah County jury to decide the issues at a trial that will be scheduled sometime down the road.
The next steps include getting a signed order and then starting the process of giving notice to the class. If you have not been in touch with us and you’re a former WCI student who wants more information, please feel free to contact me using the links here.
October 2nd, 2009
Here’s the link to a report in The Oregonian posted on OregonLive about this week’s increase in filing fees in Oregon’s civil court system. Longer analysis here explaining the problem. The comments at OregonLive are a bit disconcerting, what with yammering about frivolous lawsuits and a 1989 Orange County case.
Last I checked, Orange County was in California, not Oregon. And 1989 was, like, 20 years ago. The case sounds suspiciously like a number of made-up cases from the 1980’s that turned out to be urban mythic. Not that it matters–that wasn’t the case here, and it isn’t the case now.
But the noise about frivolous lawsuits from 1989 in California misses the point.
The real problem is that ordinary Oregonians–people who pay their bills and keep their heads down–are going to be barred from the courthouse. It’s not just filing fees. The courts will now charge costs at stage of the case (motions, orders, appearances, arguments). The Oregonian article missed that part of the story. Unless we face up to funding services in our state, only the rich will enjoy basic rights like access to justice. You can’t afford it? No justice for you.
September 29th, 2009
New flash: The idiot at the helm–the author–recently mastered the tech skills that take him to the level of preschooler. To celebrate, and without further delay, here is Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint in Bixby v. KBR, the case on behalf of the Oregon National Guard soldiers exposed to sodium dichromate in Iraq in 2003.
September 23rd, 2009
Here’s the update on Oregon National Guard soldiers case against KBR. By way of background, members of the Oregon National Guard who served in Iraq in 2003 were exposed to sodium dichromate while protecting KBR employees at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant. We filed the case this summer.
It has grown. We filed an amended complaint a few weeks ago. I’m still having problems with uploads, so I can’t seem to get the pdf to load. Apologies. Once we get the bugs ironed out, I’ll update.
For those tracking this case, it’s Bixby, et al v. KBR, U.S. District Court Case No. 3:09-CV-632-PK (D. Or.) The other update is that the KBR defendants have filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is one of those dry but important issues. KBR believes that it should not have to defend this case in Oregon. We’ll be doing discovery over the coming month and then responding and should have a ruling in late fall.
September 16th, 2009
The frivolous lawsuit canard often turns on whose ox is getting gored. When a consumer files a class action, it is–according to representatives of business interests–a frivolous lawsuit. But when someone who wants to close the courthouse doors files their own class action, it is to take on illegal conduct.
When a politician who is opposed to frivolous lawsuits or too many lawsuits threatens to file her own case, that, too, is a different story.
The latest chapter comes from this stinging rebuke of the so-called Birther movement. It seems that one Captain Connie Rhodes sought an injunction prohibiting her deployment to Iraq because President Obama has not established that he was born in the U.S. As a result–the lawsuit claims–he is not the Commander-in-Chief. And so, she claims, she should not be required to ship out to Iraq because President Obama isn’t the real president.
The opinion makes entertaining reading. The court takes a dim view of Capt. Rhodes’ lawyer’s antics in this and other cases. Correctly so, I might add. Still, I’m going to wager that the court was a bit too restrained for the message to get through. Maybe next time.
I can hardly wait to see this opinion crop up on Freedomworks web site. They claim to be concerned with frivolous lawsuits. Any takers on whether they list it?