Washington State’s Pro Bono Programs Helpful In Recession

Due to the current economic climate, many people cannot afford legal services; similarly, many attorneys ability to take on pro bono cases has significantly decreased. This means that many people who need legal help are not getting it, economically being denied access to justice.

A recent study by the American Bar Association showed that at least 40% of households with a low to moderate income experience a legal program each year; however, only 20% of these legal needs are met through collective pro bono civil aid. The severity of legal problems ranges from custody disputes to foreclosures to employment termination cases.

Despite the downturn in the economy, Washington State continues to have an above average pro bono reputation. According to Washington State Bar Association study, Washington attorneys volunteer as much or more pro bono hours than attorneys in other states.

Free legal services are usually offered to clients with little or no resources to cover the costs of the case. Some organizations, such as Legal Voice, target specific clients. Located in downtown Seattle, aims to primarily help female clients with domestic violence, family law, or employment discrimination issues. Similarly, TeamChild provides legal representation and counsel to youth. Additionally, because of Seattle’s port location, Seattle is home to multiple immigrant rights pro bono organizations. These organizations deal with everything from immigration issues to domestic violence against immigrants.

Hopefully, Washington State can maintain its reputation as having a legal community dedicated to volunteering hours, as the need for legal services continues to grow. Pro bono organizations in Seattle and counties around the State expect to see continued growth and demand for pro bono legal services, despite the recession being declared over.

If you have limited resources or are qualified low income and have a legal matter beyond what The Filutowski Law Firm handles, we encourage you to consult with an appropriate pro bono organization listed below.

KING COUNTY ORGANIZATIONS

Chaya:

Phone: (206) 568-7576

Email: sarah@chayaseattle.org

Website: www.chayaseattle.org

 

Eastside Legal Assistance Program:

Phone: (425) 747-7274

Email: Judith@elap.org

Website: www.elap.org

Family Law CASA of King County:

Phone: (206) 748-9700

Email: cddavis@familylawcasa.org

Website: www.familylawcasa.org

King County Bar Association Pro Bono Services:

Phone: (206) 267-7100

Email: tovolunteer@kcba.org

Website: www.kcba.org/pbs/volunteers.aspx

King County Dependency CASA Program:

Phone: (206) 296-1120

Email: janet.harris@kingcounty.gov

Legal Action Center:

Phone: (206) 324-6890

Open Door Legal Services:

Phone: (206) 682-4642

Email: dmace@ugm.org

 

Seattle Community Law Center:

Phone: (206) 686-7252 ext 104

Email: alex@seattlecommlaw.org

Website: www.seattlecommlaw.org

Seattle University School of Law Peterson Law Clinic:

Phone: (206) 398-4000

Website: www.law.seattleu.edu/academics/law_clinic.xml

Solanus Casey Legal Services:

Phone: (206) 223-0907

Solid Ground:

Website: www.solidground.org

University of Washington School of Law Federal Tax Clinic:

Website: www.law.washington.edu/clinics/tax

Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice:

Phone: (206) 359-6200

Email: Juliann@vaij.org

STATEWIDE ORGANIZATIONS

ABA/FEMA Disaster Legal Assistance-ABA Young Lawyers Division:

Phone: (425) 493-5000

Email: kari@carsonlawgroup.com

ABA Military Pro Bono Project:

Phone: (312) 988-5783

Website: www.militaryprobono.org

Columbia Legal Services:

Website: www.columbialegal.org

Legal Voice (women’s law):

Website: www.nwwlc.org

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project:

Website: www.nwirp.org

Northwest Justice Project:

Website: www.nwjustice.org

TeamChild:

Website: www.teamchild.org

Unemployment Law Project:

Website: www.unemploymentlawproject.org

Washington Attorneys Assisting Community Organizations:

Website: www.waaco.org

Washington State CASA:

Website: www.washingtonstatecasa.org

Washington Defender Association:

Website: www.defensenet.org

Copyright 2011 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

Explosive FireGel Recalled

FireGel sold at Bed Bath & Beyond has reportedly seriously burned several customers, according to the June 10, 2011 New York Times. The product is is a gel used to light ceramic firepots, scented with citronella to ward off insects on hot summer nights. The label has a neon green box prominently centered that states “lab tested safe.” Yet, when users squirted the gel onto a fire in a ceramic pot, the gel combusted causing disfiguring burns to the users’ faces and bodies.

Having attended the Pan European Organization of Personal Injury Lawyers (PEOPIL) in Krakow, Poland this weekend, where I presented and learned about legal issues for victims in other nations, it is an understatement to say that the news of this exploding FireGel is disconcerting. How did such a knowingly defective product hit store shelves in the U.S.?

With such a blatant defect, the victims and their families have a strong case against the manufacturer of the ceramic pot and packager of the fire gel, Napa Home & Garden, for defective design and inadequate (deceptive) warning. The fact the labels deceptively stated the product is safe, which can be reasonably interpreted to mean the product will not explode near a flame, provides sufficient legal basis. Research into the formula and poor quality control testing will only further strengthen the case.

The fuel is manufactured by Fuel Barons Inc. The FireGel has a “certification of safety” from Fuel Barons, who allegedly intended to communicate that its fuel is environmentally friendly, as it is made from recycled postconsumer waste and does not emit toxins when it burns. The corporate website has a British-accented women describe the miracle of this product, yet the company is headquartered in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has received at least 8 reported incidents of explosions involving fire gels and ceramic pots, though it is not clear if all incidents involved FireGel, or other fuel gel products, such as NapaFireLites, RealFlame and SUREFire.

Copyright 2011 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. Similar information was posted to Girl Power Hour, Seattle. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued. If you are seeking a consultation on a legal matter, contact Alexandra Filutowski.

Edmonds Man’s Family Seeks $25 Million For Brain Injuries Suffered From Police Chase

Seattle PI Reports:

The family of an Edmonds man who was brain-damaged during a police foot chase in Belltown has filed a $25 million tort claim against the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Christopher Harris, 29, was knocked into a coma at the end of a May 10, 2009 pursuit in BelltownHarris had inexplicably run from two Metro Transit police officers who were incorrectly told that Harris was involved in a robbery at a convenience store at Second Avenue and Bell Street. He was overtaken and shoved headfirst into a wall.

Harris is permanently brain-damaged and remains in a coma-like state at a long-term care facility. He can open his eyes but can’t speak, and will likely require 24-hour care for the rest of his life, said Sim Osborn, the attorney representing Harris’ family in the claim filed Tuesday.

The claim alleges that the officer, Deputy Matt Paul, used excessive and unnecessary force when he shoved Harris headfirst into a concrete wall at the Seattle Cinerama Theater at Fourth Avenue and Lenora Street. The claim alleges that Harris posed no threat and was giving up as the deputy rammed into him, after a chase that lasted several blocks.

A claim for damages is a precursor to a lawsuit and seeks monetary damages to pay for Harris’ medical expenses and for the emotional distress inflicted on Harris’ wife, Sarah Jorgenson.

“I just want to be able to bring my husband home. I want to take care of him at home and have him with me,” Jorgenson said during a meeting with reporters. The couple has been married for two years. They met at Tumwater High School.

The incident was reviewed by the Sheriff’s Office and the King County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutors reviewed the case and determined the deputy’s use of force was lawful. Harris had been ordered several times to stop, although it appears in a video of the incident that he was slowing down when the deputy caught him.

Osborn said he thinks the Sheriff’s Office acted with “horrible judgment” in clearing the officer of criminal wrongdoing.

Jorgenson said she last saw her husband on the morning of Saturday, May 9, 2009. She was headed to Olympia to spend Mother’s Day with family. Her husband planned to work a double-shift, she said.

She now spends days at her husband’s bedside, talking or reading to him, or playing his favorite music. She hasn’t worked since the incident, she said. She doesn’t know why her husband traveled to Belltown after finishing work in Edmonds on the night he was injured. The couple previously lived and worked in Belltown, and had friends in the area, Osborn said.

Video from a Cinerama security camera appears to show Harris discard a small object just before the officer shoves him. The Sheriff’s Office, however, didn’t know about the object until reviewing the video, and it was not taken into evidence.

Paul’s actions are still under review for whether they were within the Sheriff’s Office policy. Paul is a four-year veteran.

“This was a devastating injury for Chris Harris — horrible for him, horrible for his family and really a tragedy for our deputy as well, although certainly not the extent of the Harris family,” sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart said. “There are no winners here”

Part of the internal review will look at training provided to officers at the law enforcement academy on what to do at the end of foot pursuits, Urquhart said. But an officer’s decision on how to stop someone is influenced by many factors and unknown risks, such as whether a suspect is armed, he said.

“There is an awful lot of officers saying there but for the grace of God go I. When we go hands-on, which is our job, you can have unexpected and serious results. None of us get up in the morning to go to work planning on hurting somebody. Sometimes it happens and it’s extremely unfortunate,” he said.

Osborn said Tuesday that there were conflicting statements from witnesses, which he would present as evidence at trial. Below is a chronology of events as reported by the Sheriff’s Office in May, based on witness accounts:

  • Harris got off work from Arnie’s Restaurant in Edmonds at 10 p.m. He had a drink at the bar and joined friends for a drink at another bar. He offered a friend $60 to drive him to BelltownHarris got out of the car and said he would return in a few minutes, but never came back.
  • Just before 1:15 a.m., Seattle police were called to a fight at the Casablanca, a bar near the convenience store. The 911 caller noted “broken bottles.” Minutes after, a man burst into the store and rushed behind the counter. Three other men raced in after him, and all were bleeding. They shouted and threw objects from the store at each other. The store owner called police.
  • Paul, and another transit officer, Joseph Eshom, were monitoring the incident on radio, and as they went to check on it, they were summoned by two women walking by the store who saw the bleeding men flee and assumed it was a robbery. One of the women told the officers she could lead them to the suspects. She took them east on Bell Street to an alley between Second and Third Avenues. There, she saw Harris in the alley across Blanchard Street and yelled, “That’s one of them, here he is right there.”
  • Harris flipped his sweatshirt hood over his head and started to walk away. The officers, in dark-colored uniforms, yelled, “Stop police.” Harris ran, first eastbound on Blanchard Street, then south on Third Avenue to Lenora Street, where he ran toward the Cinerama.”
  • Three witnesses saw the chase, including one who grabbed a traffic cone with the thought of intervening. Two witnesses who had just left the theater heard the officers shout, “Stop, police.” The witnesses also heard Harris reply: “I don’t have anything.” Both deputies said that they identified themselves, although Osborn disputes when they identified themselves.
  • Deputy Paul caught up to Harris as he seemed to be “running out of steam.” Paul barreled into him, as shown on video, and shoved Harris into the theater’s wall. The deputy dragged Harris away from the wall to handcuff him and realized the severity of Harris‘ head injury. He got up and called for medics.
  • Investigators later determined that Harris was not involved in the scuffle at the bar or the convenience store. He had no warrants and no contraband. Police found nothing but a small screwdriver in his pocket. Whatever Harris dropped in the video was not recovered.

To view the complete Cinerama surveillance footage click HERE.

Start 2010 Right: Is Your Non-Compete Enforceable?

As we enter a new decade, many are looking to hit the “reset” button in their career by either branching off on their own or joining a competing company. Before making such changes, many individuals have approached me with valid concerns over the enforceability of their non-compete agreements with their current employers.

Governing Law

In reviewing your non-compete agreement (NCA), you must first determine what state law governs it. Absent a “governing law” clause in the agreement, Washington State law likely applies, so long as your employer and/or you are based in Washington State.

No Bright Line Rule

Washington State law provides no bright line rule in determining whether a particular NCA is enforceable or not. Courts enforce an NCA only where principles of equity (fairness) are upheld. Essentially, the rule is that an NCA is enforceable so long as its restrictions are not greater than are reasonably necessary to protect the business or good will of the employer, even though they restrain the employee of his/her liberty to engage in a certain occupation or business, and deprive the public of the services, or restrain trade. Such determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.

Multi-Factor Analysis

Washington courts go through a multi-factor analysis in determining whether an NCA is enforceable, including:

  1. whether employer offered marketable skills training to employee in exchange for employee’s promise to not compete. An NCA is a contract. In order for a contract to be enforceable, the employee must receive something from the employer in exchange for his/her promise to not compete with the employer. Such promise is usually in exchange for the employer training the employee on certain technology, skills, trade or knowledge;
  2. whether employer’s former clients, who are now seeking services of competitor, were solicited or voluntarily disengaged from the former employer prior to joining competitor;
  3. reasonableness of the duration and geographic reach of the restriction. A court will not enforce a restriction that unduly hinders the employee’s efforts to earn a livelihood within a reasonable distance from the former employer;
  4. whether employee, either directly or indirectly, solicited or diverted current clients of former employer;
  5. whether employee’s action has harmed former employer’s business, as opposed to other competitor’s providing such services to clients;
  6. whether the public’s access is unnecessarily and unreasonably restricted to service and skill of the employee. The law promotes the reasonable exchange of services in the marketplace between employees and prospective customers, barring any substantial hardship imposed upon the former employer.

Copyright 2010 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC.This post is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued by reading this post. If you would like further information regarding the matters discussed herein, you may post a comment. If you need a consultation on a legal matter, contact Alexandra Filutowski.

Seattle Bicycle Commuters: Traffic Laws Apply

Biking originated as a recreational activity. Over time in an increasingly congested region, many Puget Sound residents have adopted bicycling as a form of transportation to/from work. The majority of bicyclist commuters abide by the Washington State bike laws, however, there are the few that do not and unfortunately inflict serious personal injury upon innocent bystanders or themselves:

Monday a helmet-less bicyclist ran a red light, leading to a Lexus colliding with him. The young man is now in critical condition at Harborview.

Tuesday another bicyclist ran a red light at Pike Place Market, colliding with a 6-year old boy. The boy sustained serious facial injuries, necessitating his jaw to be wired shut.

Cyclists have all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver when riding on roadways (RCW 46.61.755). To ensure you, fellow cyclists and pedestrians are safe on the roadways, review applicable Washington bike and road laws.

In the event you are injured by a vehicle while riding a bicycle or walking as a pedestrian, and that vehicle has Personal Injury Protection (P.I.P.), you may open a claim to cover your medical bills, lost wages and other incidental expenses. If that vehicle has no P.I.P., but one of your vehicles does, then you may open a P.I.P. with that insurance company.

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