Sunday, May 31, 2009


Friday Night: Soldiers' vs. DUI

Friday, I was winding down for good about midnight. The call came in at 12:25 am from an attorney who wanted me to call two soldiers from Fort Lewis right away -- husband and wife -- who were rear-ended by a truck. I spoke to the wife, she was the passenger in the car they just bought. They were hit by a guy who they described as impaired. They don't know if he was drunk, slow, heavily medicated or what.

The soldier's wife called 911 three times. The 911 operator said they would not come unless ambulances were required.

No one was bleeding, the DEF accepted liability, they exchanged information. And just to be sure, the wife/soldier called her Sargent and he came to the scene to witness the Defendant's impaired behavior. All the cars were totaled, including the pick-up truck they were rear-ended by.

One thing an accident investigator quickly learns is this: when the vehicles are totaled, the people in the vehicles are likely totaled. The people are totaled physically, psychologically, financially, any or all of the above.

What impact does to steel (which is tens of thousands of pounds stronger than flesh, bone, muscles, sinew, spinal column, discs) produces the same effects in the human body.
The soldiers just got out of the ER when I spoke to them. They had ruptured discs, torn muscles, their health, healing and military careers are uncertain.

The irony, the wife/soldier said, is the two had just returned from Iraq, they were out having dinner on their first date back home.

What has them so upset, she said, besides their extensive physical injuries which jeopardize their future in the military...
besides the damage to their brand new car...
besides the obvious impairment of the defendant...
besides the fact the police wouldn't come to the scene....
besides all that...
what has them MOST upset is the fact that the insurance company of the Defendant (the person who hit them)... and the insurance company of the soldiers is the SAME company!

The injured female soldier said that makes no sense, isn't there something wrong with the Defendant being represented by the same insurance company as the victim?
I tell her yes, in my opinion, it is a conflict of interest. And it happens all the time. I tell her in the old days some attorneys wouldn't take on such cases. Now it happens all the time...
whether it's Allstate vs. Allstate, Farmers vs. Farmers; Geico vs. Geico; Hartford vs. Hartford: or USAA vs USAA.

She asks a lot more questions because her adrenalin is flowing. Since we're closing in on 1:00 am and my adrenalin is all used up, I tell her I will answer her questions and ask a few more of her when we meet. I schedule an appointment a few days into the week to give the law firm time to review the case and see if it's a go. I email notes of the call to the law firm, then do the wisest thing possible. I sleep.

Saturday : Pregnant Woman vs. Septic Tank

7:00 am. Phone rings. This case is a "premises case" which is a case that happened in a certain place, or premise.

The potential clients called the lawyers from the neo-natal unit of a hospital where the victim was being treated. The lawyers called me because this is what they consider a mission critical case.

The clients, male and female fiancees, are having a baby. She is nine months pregnant. It is their first. She was injured by a fall and she may now lose the baby.

The couple were staying in their aunt's trailer in a trailer park. The trailer park manager was working on and in a manhole draining a septic tank which was about 10 feet from the aunt's trailer. He had the manhole cover off the manhole, the cover was beside and to the left of the open manhole.

He also had a piece of what was described as a carpet or mat he normally covers the hole with when it's closed to keep the stink of the septic tank at a minimum. That mat was laying on the grass near the manhole cover.

He told one witness he had to leave the scene briefly to make a phone call. Instead of putting the manhole cover back on the open septic tank hole, he left the septic tank hole open, and inexplicably covered it with the mat, which was described to me as a brown thick carpet or rug that was kind of like astro turf.

At the very moment the manager left the septic tank cover open with the mat on it... and walked away to make his phone call.... the 9-month pregnant woman exited her aunt's trailer with her husband to take their dog for a walk. The woman's right foot caught the edge of the mat on the open manhole cover, her right leg fell into the septic tank, scraped down it's concrete side, and her was cut and covered with human and other septic waste. Then her upper body tipped forward until she slammed her 9-month pregnant tummy hard on the manhole cover. Immediately she felt a sharp pain in her tummy and the baby stopped moving.

She was rushed via ambulance to the ER, then neo natal. The baby's health is in question. So is mom's... because when her right leg fell in the septic tank, mom got cuts and scrapes and got sewage in them. There were witnesses present, photos were taken of the open manhole cover and now the properly covered manhole cover. There were more than five witnesses, including the pregnant woman's husband and two men who pulled her out of the septic tank. In addition, two of the paramedics almost fell into the open septic hole and they weren't happy.

No one is sure how the baby is doing. The woman is seriously p.o.'ed and I am hoping the trailer park has insurance to pay for any damages they caused to the woman, the baby

I ask the woman to get me a few things -- the managers name; the rental agreement of her aunt's trailer; the name of the owner of the trailer park. I email the attorneys so they can review the case.
Then I get back to the Saturday that hasn't begun yet.

Sunday A.M.: The Oyster Heist

Today I discover the company a group of my neighbors have hired to harvest oysters off their section of the beach, are a bunch of crooks. Let me clarify. The neighbors aren't the crooks, the company they hired to harvest the oysters are crooks.

I have been suspect of the oyster harvesters since the day they arrived a week or two ago. They promised my neighbors vast sums of money for 70% of the oysters. And if they agree to a 3 year contract, they will get three years of harvesting plus oysters seeding.

Moose and I have oysters on our beach, hundreds if not thousands of them. Port Gamble Bay is among the most clean and remote areas on Hood Canal /Puget sound waters. Every morning and night I walk my dogs along the beach and if the tide is low the oysters are with me.

Something didn't seem right about the oyster harvesting crews. My first encounter with the well organized group of oyster harvesters, left me merely suspicious... though everything seemed legitimate. There were plenty of oysters and the neighbors who owned the tidal rights and the oysters on the land they owned had a right to sell them. They were told they'd get 75 cents a pound and thousands of dollars for property taxes or roads.

The epiphany came this morning, on my walk with the dogs, when I passsed the bags of oysters than had been bound for days now at the water's edge. Two days ago, one worker said they were going to NY. The other said CA. In three days they'd gone nowehere.The oysters were living, breathe creatures confined to steel prisons, croded by the donzens into bags of blue plastic nets sealed with sip ties.

I began talking to neighbors on this Sunday, figured out who the oyster harvesting company is, investigated them, and found out they are scumbags, cheats, liars, thieves and convicted criminals who have not only defrauded people out of thousands of dollars; they have also depleted oyster beds all around the Puget Sounds. They promised people thousands of dollars for their oysters and the people get nothing but empty beds.

I print a few copies of the info I found on the web, and hand deliver it to the neighbors who are home and doing business with the oyster company, or planning to do so. I ask them to notify other people. Tomorrow the Kitsap County Sheriff, the Fish and Wildlife Dept. will also be notified.

If we're lucky the oyster hoist has been stopped in its tracks.
The challenge for me tonight is not creeping out into the evening with my flashlight, scuba knife, and cutting the netting... letting all the oysters go.
However, this is now for the police, the Fish and Wildlife Department, the Health Department and the neighbors who now have the info.... and the oysters.... under their watchful eyes.

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