Government Liability Attorneys
The idea of suing governmental entities intimidates most people. After all, since the days of our country's first lawmakers, government has been committed to providing structure for safe and fair communities. However, sometimes government agencies fall short of their commitments.
At Stritmatter Kessler we represent seriously injured people who feel they have been wronged by the government. Through honest and aggressive legal strategies we try to bring change to our communities, ensuring that all citizens have safe environments where they can live, play, and work.
Mickey Gendler sustained profound injuries, after his bicycle tire was caught in a seam on the Montlake Bridge. When Mr. Gendler learned that WSP had accident reports pointing to the bridge's history of problems for cyclists, he sought those files. But WSP refused to turn them over, unless Gendler agreed not to sue WSP based on the information from those files. Gendler refused to that agreement and sued the WSP and its head (Batiste) to obtain the documents that he had a right to access. The WA Supreme Court decided in April 2012 that Batiste/WSP was wrong to withhold those documents, saying that such agencies had a statutory duty to disclose information sought under the Public Records Act.
After Bill Munich called 911 twice, a successful entrepreneur, was gunned down by his drunken neighbor. The 911 dispatch operator had miscategorized Bill's call as Priority 2, so that the responding officer did not turn his sirens on or speed to Bill's rescue. His family was received a $2.3 million settlement.
Due to lack of maintenance of the light poles on the Chehalis River Bridge, one of them smashed through Lacey's car. Lacey sustained serious injuries, including a spinal cord injury. In Spring 2012, the State finally indicated readiness to fund a project for a proper lighting system.
Jane Doe v. Squaxin Island Tribe
In 2010, SKWC settled a case involving the rape of a 31 year old divorced mother of three children for $1 million. The case was against a Pacific NW Native American Tribe for its failure to properly monitor and supervise a 17 year old ward of the tribe. Despite the fact that the minor was a repeat offender for the illegal use of drugs, alcohol, malicious mischief, burglary and other offenses, and was under the order of several courts to comply with various conditions, the Tribe placed the minor with an unqualified adult in direct violation of a court order. The unsupervised client then committed the rape at knife point while under the influence of drugs and alcohol while out past curfew.
Kime v. City of Seattle
Wrongful death settlement
One of the worst decisions the City of Seattle ever made was to allow Pioneer Square to erupt into riots during Mardi Gras 2001. Kristopher Kime was bending over to help a young woman who had been beaten and knocked to the ground, when he was violently attacked. His friends ran to the perimeter of the riot zone and begged police to help. They were told that the officers had been instructed not to render assistance. Kris was lifted off the street and carried to the police by friends and off-duty firefighters. But it was too late. He died of massive brain injuries.
Mediation resulted in a significant sum of money paid to Kris's parents, but also: creation of a scholarship for the outstanding compassionate young person of the year; erection of a memorial plaque at the pergola in Pioneer Square; a meeting with the police chief; and invitation to attend public safety meetings. Kris' divorced parents worked closely and in complete agreement to make sure that justice was done. They donated his organs to save the lives of others and they remain involved in many community service efforts.
Interview with Karen K. Koehler, plaintiffs’ counsel in Kime*
Q: How did you come to represent the Kime family?
A: They interviewed a number of lawyers who felt they did not have a good case, but I felt that there was a terrible wrong and that I would do whatever I had to in order to make it right.
Q: How did you reach such interesting settlement terms?
A: We talked extensively with his whole family – grandparents, siblings, step-mom, half-brother, sister. Even though the parents are divorced, they united for the effort. Because this wasn’t the typical accident case, what we talked about was that it wasn’t just about money, even though the civil justice system compensates victims with money. We wanted to make sure that he did not die in vain and that his life and the mistakes made that night would not fade away. The non-monetary aspects were equally the focus, and we spent as much time negotiating these other things as the money.
The reason for the difficulty with the plaque is that [Seattle’s] Pioneer Square is on the historic register and it is governed by a historic board. The city said we couldn’t do it unless the board approved, and that the board wouldn’t likely do it because it was morbid. You know, people coming to Pioneer Square and reading a plaque about someone dying there. They were proposing several other locations for the site of the plaque. It’s almost funny, they had us spinning around over other locations, they wanted it everywhere except where he was killed. Every year since this has happened his family goes there and lights a vigil. His mother just emailed me and told me when they would be going this year. The plaque is there forever, this was the biggest condition and the most concrete one.
Q: Do you think that the City was willing to settle with the Kime family in part because of political pressure due to negative press?
A: Yes. The City was scared of litigating the facts in regards to Kris Kime. They stood by while he was killed. If I were the City, I wouldn’t want to litigate these facts. Cases with these facts beg for justice and can make for law adverse to the interests of the City.
Q: Any advice for law students interested in a civil rights law practice?
A: Yes, you should become a member of Public Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Constitution Society.
* Current Issues in Constitutional Litigation (Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming November 2010)
Schultz and Underdahl v. State of Washington
$8.8 million settlement
Level 3 sex offender Gary Wayne Puckett murdered a woman on a jogging trail and attacked another woman halfway across the country , all while violating his parole conditions. Representing the plaintiffs, we showed that the Department of Corrections was negligent in supervising this dangerous parolee.
Glanz v. City of Lynnwood
Sharla Glanz, at 69 years old, was seriously injured as a pedestrian at a crosswalk. The accident occurred because the warning lights failed to work. The City of Lynnwood attempted to blame Glanz in its defense, but Stritmatter Kessler injury attorneys made sure that they were held accountable.