What happened to the white monuments to Portland traffic victims

For a couple of days in November,  you may have seen one of these white silhouettes along the Portland roadsides.


Photo: Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets

The silhouettes—about 130 of in the Portland metro area—represented victims of motor vehicle crashes. They were created by Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets.

Families and friends of the crash victims marked the locations of traffic fatalities two weeks ago, in honor of World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

The fate of Portland’s traffic death markers

Within a couple of days, the group was told that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) had started to remove the human-sized markers.

The group had notified ODOT about the monuments to traffic crash victims, but didn’t get permission from the state agency.

ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton told a reporter for the Bike Portland blog that the memorials were too distracting.

“Things that are causing distraction for people on the road or are obscuring important safety information or creating some kind of safety hazard.”

The first four were removed after an ODOT staffer drove by one of the white silhouettes placed in a median.

“He was driving home, and it started him. It was alarming.”

It IS alarming.

It is alarming that so many drivers are surprised by pedestrians on streets.

That is not to say that ODOT’s position is inherently wrong.

There’s a strong argument to be made for eliminating roadside distractions. And, although Oregon does make roadside advertising space available, it is regulated and controlled.

“State highways are not a bulletin board.”

ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton, in 2011 interview


Actually, Oregon state highways are often used as bulletin boards.

But it is hard to believe that ODOT, which states it’s mission as providing a “safe, efficient transportation system that supports economic opportunity and livable communities for Oregonians” doesn’t see the value of drawing public attention to the horrifying number of preventable traffic deaths.

Other states have found value in marking traffic fatality locations.

South Dakota’s Department of Transportation installs Fatal Accident Markers where fatal crashes have occurred since January 1, 1979.


South Dakota’s Department of Transportation installs “Fatal Accident Markers” on state roads, and supplies them to cities and counties.


Fatal crash markers can provide a valuable public service.

Startled by a "ghost" pedestrian? Maybe you shouldn't be ...

Startled by a “ghost” pedestrian? Maybe you shouldn’t be …

They show us where people are dying—too often, on the same streets—and force us to consider the deadly serious ramifications of dangerous driving.

Portland has committed reducing traffic deaths by identifying High Crash Corridors—the 3% of the road network where 51% of pedestrian deaths and 36% of all traffic fatalities occur—via the Vision Zero project.

After speaking with ODOT representatives, Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets removed a number of the monuments themselves.

We applaud the efforts of the group (who received national media attention for their project). Even though their white silhouettes were only in place for a few days, they contributed to an important public conversation about preventing traffic violence.


Support Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets on Facebook



Have you seen these white silhouettes on Portland streets?

Have you seen one of these white profiles at an intersection, or along the side of the road?

Did you know what it was, or understand what it signified?


These white silhouettes represent cyclists, pedestrians, passengers and drivers* killed in motor vehicle crashes.DLG_OR_WA_FamiliesforSafeStreets

Families and friends of the victims marked the locations on Sunday—World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. The project was led by Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets.

The group says they placed 130 silhouettes on streets in and around Portland, Oregon.

The white, human-size markers are shocking reminders to drivers to slow down and share the road.

Kristi Finney Dunn was among the dozens of families who placed a white silhouette marked with the date of loss. Her son Dustin was riding in the bike lane on a SE Portland street when he was struck and killed.

“Before my son was killed by a drunk driver, I thought ‘Accidents happen.’ But what happened to Dustin was no accident. I learned that most crashes are preventable, often caused by behavior easily within a person’s control to change.”Safe_Streets-PDX.jpg

“I hope people will learn from our tragedies and change their risky driving, so they don’t cause the kind of devastation our families have suffered.”

 – See the full press release

The group is calling for cultural changes to the way we drive, and for improved safety infrastructure.

Many of the white memorials appear to be located along Portland’s High Crash Corridors. These streets account for only 3% of Portland’s roads,  but 51% of pedestrian deaths, and 36% of all traffic fatalities.


“As families who have experienced the tragic loss of a loved one to reckless traffic in OR and WA, we demand rapid implementation of Vision Zero.”

Mission of Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets

Vision Zero is a traffic safety project with the goal of completely eliminating traffic fatalities.

Portland adopted the worldwide program earlier this year, with a focus on these High Crash Corridors.

However, Portland’s Vision Zero plan barely mentions the most obvious way to eliminate most of the city’s traffic deaths: reducing the speed limit.

Far too many lives are lost to traffic violence.  These sudden deaths are so hard on the victim’s family. It is heartbreaking to see grieving family members grapple with feelings of powerlessness and futility.

We at D’Amore Law Group commend the members of Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets for channeling their grief into an effective, powerful message of change.

And we hope that the silhouette memorials not only remind motorists to slow down, and watch for cyclists and pedestrians, but also help push forward Portland’s implementation of Vision Zero.

Have you seen one of these silhouettes? See #safestreetspdx on Twitter.

* Update: a spokesperson for the group Oregon and SW Washington Families for Safe Streets says these silhouettes represent not just pedestrian and cycling deaths, but also include motor vehicle passenger deaths.

One of the best ways to honor veterans? Fix VA hospital’s staffing problems.

Since 2001, about 2.5 million members of the U.S. military—Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and respective Reserve and National Guard units—have served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many served multiple deployments.

Many survived serious injuries that would have resulted in death in past wars.

Many returned to find that their local health care facilities run by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) were already operating at full capacity serving veterans from Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf conflicts.

  • The most common physical injuries: missing limbs, burns, spinal cord injuries, and brain injuries.
  • About 70% of vets experience some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other mental health issues after deployment, according to The Wounded Warrior Project.

Last year, multiple VA hospitals and clinics were found to have systemic problems—including severe under-staffing that left vets waiting months just to get an appointment.

The VA is still trying to fill catch up. The government agency reportedly has 41,500 open jobs for doctors, nurses and medical staff

Oregon lawmakers’ plan to staff the VA hospitals

Long wait times put our veterans’ health in jeopardy and are simply unacceptable.

– U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon

On November 10—the day before Veterans Day—members of the U.S. Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee introduced a bill to help solve the problem of under-staffing in VA hospitals.

The Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act is designed to make it easier for VA hospitals to hire staff—improving care and cutting wait time for patients.

  • Recent veterans who served in medical roles could easily transfer from the military health care system to the VA system. Returning veterans will be considered in the same as job applicants from within the VA, allowing for a much faster hiring process … and a staff that’s well-trained in military injuries and illnesses.
  • Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants could provide full treatment to patients.  Most states allow full medical practice authority to nurses with post-graduate education and advanced training. The VA facilities have not … contributing to clinic staffing shortages, especially in rural areas.
  • Doctors could transfer from one VA hospital to another without “significant red tape.” The current process can take several months, which means it’s hard to put doctors where they are most needed.

Our military medical professionals are some of the best-trained, most experienced folks around when it comes to providing care … This bill will help the VA tap that resource, cutting red tape, hiring the trained medical professionals it desperately needs, and reducing wait times for our veterans at home.

– Senator Ron Wyden, Oregon

Oregon lawmakers were well-represented in the introduction of this potential new law.

Senators Wyden and Merkley are both sponsors of the bipartisan bill.

Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio plans to introduce the companion bill in the House next week.

So far, The Veterans Health Care Staffing Improvement Act is supported by more than 40 veterans and health care organizations,  including Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), and the American Nurses Association.


GEICO’s $9.6 million-dollar lesson in “bad faith”

In August 2006, James Harvey was behind the wheel of his Hummer, approaching a flashing red light to turn onto a Florida highway.

Harvey didn’t stop at that red light. When he pulled onto the highway, his Hummer t-boned a motorcycle.

The motorcycle’s driver, John Potts, was killed.

Wrongful death lawsuit

The at-fault driver, James Harvey, had a GEICO auto insurance policy—but his policy only covered $100,000 in damages.

GEICO paid the Potts’ family the policy limits within days of the crash.

But when GEICO was asked for information on any additional insurance or assets Harvey might have, GEICO refused to provide the information.

Tracey Potts, the wife of the crash victim, filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

  • Plaintiff: Tracey Potts, and the Estate of John Potts
  • Defendants: James Harvey

In December 2010, the case was presented to a judge and jury. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before awarding $8.48 million to the Potts’ family.

GEICO lawyers appealed the verdict, but it was upheld. The Plaintiffs have still not been compensated.

Bad faith lawsuit against GEICO

Insurance_attribute_www.stockmonkeys.comAn auto insurance policy is just a contract with the insurance company.

You pay the insurance company, and in return, they agree to protect you and your property from loss or damage. This includes:

  • Fully, promptly investigating your claim;
  • Considering all of the circumstances supporting your claim; and,
  • Respond to all requests for information or communication in a timely matter.

When an insurance company is acting in “bad faith”, it is failing to meet at least one of these commitments. They are breaking the contract, and not protecting their policyholder. See: What is Bad Faith?

In this case, GEICO was legally obligated to protect Harvey.  

GEICO wasn’t protecting Harvey by refusing to turn over his basic insurance and asset information: they were putting him at risk.

If the insurance company adjusters had followed the law, GEICO would have paid out the $100,000 policy limits, and the case would have be over. Instead, the insurance company exposed Harvey to a multi-million dollar jury verdict.

“Bad faith is just insurance company malpractice” 

Fred Cunningham, Harvey’s lawyer in bad faith claim

Defendant Harvey had to file a lawsuit against his own insurance company.

  • Plaintiff: James Harvey
  • Defendant: GEICO Insurance Company

Last week, a Florida jury heard Harvey’s case against GEICO.

The jury found that GEICO acted in bad faith, and failed to protect their policyholder.

They awarded a $9.6 million verdict—the original $8.4 million jury verdict, with interest.

It’s good news for Harvey, who is now off hook for the original verdict. It’s good news for the Potts’ family, who may actually be compensated now.

It’s bad news for GEICO. The company is likely to appeal the jury verdict.




Image: stockmonkeys.com


Everyone needs to be a little more careful on Halloween: this is why

People behave strangely (and too often, dangerously) on Halloween.

Adults wear costumes that conceal their identities. Children walk the streets at night, asking for candy.

It’s probably not surprising that your car is almost twice as likely to be vandalized on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Or that emergency rooms report a spike in patients, especially with hand injuries and broken bones.

But the odds are that Halloween 2015 will be even more strange—and even more dangerous—than it has been in years past.

Here’s why.

This year, Halloween is on a Saturday.

NHTSA ad drinking and driving Halloween

Drinking and driving is particularly deadly on Halloween…and on Saturday night

On the average Halloween night, between 40-50% of fatal crashes involve a drunk driver.

When Halloween is on a Friday or Saturday, more people go to parties or to bars.

Saturday is already the most dangerous day of the week on U.S. roads, with more car crash deaths than any other day.

In 2009, the last year Halloween fell on a Saturday, Oregon State troopers arrested twice as many drivers for DUII than the year before.

A deadly night for pedestrians

  • Kids have a 30% narrower field of vision than adults.
  • They don’t know how to judge the speed or distance of moving vehicles.
  • Small children are harder to see than adults, especially after dark … and in costume.

*Some costumes make it harder for kids to see oncoming traffic, especially in the dark

The grim reality: the fatality rate for child pedestrians is two to four times higher on Halloween than on any other day of the year.

And it’s not just children at risk.

Overall, Halloween ranks as the third-deadliest day of the year for pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

An early sunset …

The sun will set around 6 p.m. in the Pacific Northwest on Saturday, October 31.

Most trick-or-treating happens between 5 and 9 p.m. Since it’s not a school night, children and teenagers may be out later than usual.

… And an extra hour

Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 1, at 2 a.m.

That’s an extra hour of sleep for some people … and an extra hour of Halloween partying for others.

Saturday  + More people drinking and driving  + Millions of pedestrians + Dark night + Extra hour

= A Scary Halloween 2015 .

Be a little more careful this Halloween.

If you’re taking kids trick-or-treating:

  • Give each kid a small flashlight or glow stick.
  • Put reflective tape on costumes, shoes and/or candy bags.
  • Before you go out, remind children to cross the street only at intersections, and look both ways.
  • See more from Safe Kids USA

If you’re going out or driving anywhere:

  • Stay off side streets or neighborhood streets.
  • Be particularly careful at intersections, especially before turning.
  • Turn off your phone, and reduce any distractions in your car.
  • If you are drinking, don’t drive. Park your car somewhere safe, and call a cab.
  • If you suspect a driver is drunk or impaired, call 9-1-1, or in Oregon: 1-800-24DRUNK.

Whatever you do, please be safe this Halloween.





  • Photo credit: ToyahAnette B (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Tips and tools to make your teenager a better, safer driver

The crash rate for drivers 20 years old and younger is double that of the population as a whole, based on Oregon Department of Transportation estimates.

As the parent of a teenager, it’s a terrifying thing to hear. Take advantage of the resources available to help you make your kid a safe driver: here are a few tips and tools.

Put together a detailed list of your driving rules


It’s a great time to have this conversation: October 18-24 is National Teen Driver Safety Week.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has put together a list of the top 5 traffic safety topics to discuss with your teenager.


 5 to Drive:

  1. No alcohol. About a third of 15-to-20-year-old drivers killed in car crashes in 2013 had been drinking. Oregon and Washington have zero-tolerance laws: if a driver under age 21 has consumed any alcohol, he or she is considered to be Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII).
  2. No cell phone use. Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous, and cell phones are a primary distraction.
  3. No driving or riding without a seat belt. More than half of all teenagers killed in crashes weren’t wearing seat belts.
  4. No speeding. In 2013, speeding was a factor in 42% of the motor vehicle crashes that killed 15-to 20-year-old drivers.
  5. No extra passengers. The chances of a teen driver dying in a car crash quadruples when carrying three passengers younger than 21, compared to driving with no teenage passengers.

Just talking about driving safely isn’t enough …


Apps like Life360 can show you when your kid arrives and leaves a location

The NHTSA rules are a good outline, but just talking to your kid about safe driving isn’t enough.

Get technical.

Rule #2: no cell phone use while driving.

Some parents have a hard time enforcing this, because parents themselves are texting or calling kids to find out where they are, or when they are headed home.

Use technology to your advantage. There are dozens of smart phone apps that monitor the phone’s location. Pick one … and don’t text or call your teenager when he or she is driving.

Explain legal liability.

Make it clear that you own the car, and pay for the car insurance … and are legally liable if your teen driver is at fault for a crash that injures or kills someone.

But, since many teenagers don’t really relate to problems that don’t directly affect them, be frank about what can happen to them if they are responsible for a car accident.

“If you get into a car crash …”

  • You will pay a lot more for car insurance, even if no one is seriously hurt.
  • You could face criminal charges, and even jail time.
  • You may have to pay fines or punitive damages.
  • You may have to live with the knowledge that your actions hurt or killed someone.

This may sound harsh, but I have seen what happens when teen drivers cause serious car accidents. It’s incredibly painful and difficult, for not only the victims, but also the driver that caused the crash.

If your teenager is mature enough to drive a car, he or she is mature enough to understand that driving choices can have a terrible effect on someone’s life … and on their own.

Sign a contract.

Driving a car is a huge responsibility. A written agreement underscores the seriousness of the conversations you have with your kid about driving safely.

It also gives you a chance to clearly identify the 5 to Drive rules, and any additional driving rules you’ve outlined.

If the rules are broken, and you have to rescind driving privileges, it’s a little easier to enforce it with a written agreement.

Parent-Teen Driving contract PDF from CDC

This agreement from the CDC includes a provision to rescind driving privileges. Download the PDF, or use it as a template for your own parent-teen driving contract.

Be the example.

Kids are amazingly adept at spotting hypocrisy. Your rules for your teen driver won’t mean anything unless you follow them, too.

“When parents model and reinforce safe driving habits, they equip their teens with the skills to safely navigate the roadways for life”

– U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

As your teen learns to drive, take some time to review the rules of the road so you can answer any questions with authority, and set a good example behind the wheel.

Correct your own bad habits—going a few miles over the speed limit, rolling through stop signs, checking your messages at stoplights—and be the safe driver you want your teen to emulate.


Next: See Oregon’s (surprisingly effective) distracted driving videos



It’s going to be really hard to figure out how many car crashes are caused by drivers under the influence of marijuana

In the last 3 years, 3 states—Colorado, Washington, and most recently Oregon—legalized the use of recreational marijuana.

During a congressional hearing on the potential threat posed by stoned drivers, Jeff Michael, a program administrator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was asked how many crash fatalities are caused by marijuana each year. His response:

“That’s difficult to say … We don’t have a precise estimate.”

He affirmed to the committee that the answer was “probably not” zero.

NHTSA is a federal agency that describes its mission as “Save lives, prevent injuries, reduce vehicle-related crashes.”


NHTSA calculated that 10,076 people in the U.S. were killed in car crashes involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher in 2013

This is the government agency that tracks—down to a person—how many people in the U.S. are killed each year in drunk driving crashes, rollover accidents, unintended acceleration crashes, etc.

And yet, NHTSA officials have no idea how many people are injured or killed in crashes caused by stoned drivers.

Here’s why.

There’s no standard test for marijuana impairment.

The first NHTSA survey on the proportion of drivers with measurable blood alcohol content (BAC) was completed back in 1973.

In 1998, after years of studying state laws and car crash data, the NHTSA recommended that .08 become the national legal limit for a driver’s BAC.

Alcohol’s effect on the human body is predictable and measurable, compared to marijuana. That’s why there is—so far—no equivalent test for measuring marijuana impairment.

While imperfect, the BAC standard has worked well as a tool for measuring and prosecuting drunk driving. Combined with widespread public education, drunk driving crashes have been in steady decline for decades.

But it took 25 years for NHTSA to recommend a national standard for driving under the influence of alcohol. How long will it take to standardize a similar test for marijuana impairment?

Testing drivers for marijuana use

There are 3 ways that law enforcement officers can measure a driver’s impairment from marijuana: a blood test, a urine test, or the assessment of  police officers.

Blood tests and urine tests can measure the amount of THC from marijuana use. There are 2 main compounds:

  • Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): “Delta-9-THC” is the psychoactive compound that produces the immediate effects of marijuana use, including the “high.”
  • 11-nor-9-carboxy-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): “Carboxy-THC” is the inactive THC left over after the effects of the  delta-9-THC have dissipated.

Since the body’s fat cells can store THC, it can be hard to tell when the marijuana was consumed. See details: Marijuana pushes the limits on the inexact science of DUID.

A blood test can identify the presence of delta-9-THC, but that would only be present in the immediate aftermath of smoking marijuana. Blood tests are expensive: a lab has to process the results. In Oregon, blood tests for marijuana are currently only used in fatal crashes or potentially fatal crashes.

A urine test can identify carboxy-THC, which could be stored in the body for hours, days or even weeks.

“Urine testing can tell if they’ve smoked in the last 30 days. It doesn’t prove impairment at the time of arrest.”

– Dan Estes, the Oregon Department of Transportation Impaired Driving Manager. Courtesy of Oregon criminal attorneys Carini & Francis.

Some states have a zero tolerance policy: any detectable amount of marijuana in the bloodstream is grounds for DUI or DUII.

In Colorado and Washington,  the “per se” limit is 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. Any driver found at or above that level is considered over the legal limit—regardless of when the marijuana was used.

Oregon, where recreational marijuana use became legal as of July 1, 2015, has adopted neither a “per se” law or “zero tolerance” policy.

That leaves it up to officers to identify if a motorist is under the influence of marijuana.


The state of Oregon classifies driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as the same offense: Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII).

In Oregon, you could be prosecuted for DUII if you fail a field sobriety test—without a breathalyzer or blood test showing your BAC.

Since there is no equivalent test for marijuana, criminal prosecutions of Oregon drivers suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana will largely rely on field sobriety tests, and the testimony of police officers.

About 200 Oregon state and local police officers have undergone several weeks of training to identify people under the influence of marijuana: these officers have been certified as DREs: “Drug Recognition Experts.”

The problem with this method is that it provides no guidelines for motorists. “Don’t drive impaired” is good advice for everyone, but it’s not remotely quantifiable.

If we can’t quantify the number of motor vehicle accidents caused by stoned drivers, how can we educate the public and prevent these crashes?

Oregon will need to figure out what constitutes “driving under the influence of marijuana”

States are the test labs for federal laws. Other states, and the federal government, will look to the states that have legalized marijuana to measure the impact on costs, tax revenue—and safety.

Recently, Washington state officials did an analysis of blood tests of drivers in fatal traffic accidents. The analysis identified an increase in the percentage of blood samples showing delta-9 THC: indicating that the drivers had recently consumed marijuana.

The number of drivers involved in deadly crashes who tested positive for marijuana increased 48 percent from 2013 to 2014.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has been tasked with researching and presenting a report to the Oregon Legislature on driving under the influence of marijuana.


OLCC produced a video explaining Oregon’s marijuana laws. Their advice on driving a car? “Please be responsible”.

The OLCC may look to Washington’s analysis of blood tests that identified recent marijuana use in drivers involved in fatal crashes as a guide. But right now, blood tests are only standard after fatal or near-fatal crashes: that’s not useful for police officers looking to identify stoned drivers.

And it doesn’t provide any guidelines for drivers, who have no way to gauge how long to wait to get behind the wheel of a car after smoking or ingesting marijuana.

Marijuana isn’t quantifiable like alcohol. But stoned driving, like drunk driving, can only be addressed by a combination of both public policy and public education based on real data.

Right now, we have neither.

Lawsuits settled for $600,000 for families of three teens who died after being hypnotized by school principal

Principal George Kenney was not a licensed hypnotherapist.

He had been warned against hypnotizing students.

But he hypnotized dozens of high school students—three of whom died within days of hypnosis.

The strange, sad story of three teens that died after hypnosis

  • Wesley McKinley, 17: He was a talented musician with a dream of attending Julliard. In a deposition, a friend recounted McKinley getting on the school bus after hypnosis sessions: he’d have trouble remembering his own name. He hanged himself after being hypnotized.
  • Marcus Freeman, 16: The quarterback for the football team, Freeman was hypnotized by Principal to help improve his game focus. Kenney also taught the young man self-hypnosis. Freeman died from injuries sustained in a car crash: based on the testimony of his passenger, he had tried to hypnotize himself after a painful dental procedure.
  • Brittany Palumbo, 17: Kenney diagnosed her with test anxiety after a disappointing SAT result, and told her hypnosis could help improve her scores. Her scores remained the same, and weeks later her parents found her hanging in her bedroom closet.

Before Principal Kenney hypnotized any of the deceased students, he had been warned to stop practicing hypnosis at North Port High School.

Omni Hypnosis Training Center's website claims it trains professional hypnotists

New York magazine reports that George Kenney studied hypnosis at the Omni Hypnosis Training Center … but he was not licensed or certified.

The school district’s high school director had ordered Principal Kenney at least three times stop practicing hypnosis at school unless it was for psychology class, and he had secured permission from students and parents.

He defied those orders.

He later lied when questioned by a school administrator about his use of hypnosis, according to the lengthy investigation. The full investigation report is available from Herald Tribune.

A school district lawsuit and settlement


After a dangerous table saw in an Oregon high school shop class left Josh with 3 severed fingers, he filed a lawsuit against the school district for negligence.

Schools must provide a safe environment for students.

A school has to take reasonable precautions to prevent harm by other students, teachers, or people on the school grounds.

Negligence: Conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. A person has acted negligently if he or she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.

In short, was the school negligent?

Did the school do something wrong—or didn’t do something that should have been done— that led to a child’s injury or death?

In this case, Principal Kenney was acting as a representative of the school when he performed hypnosis on students.

Florida attorney Damien Mallard represented the plaintiffs—the families of the teenagers—in a wrongful death lawsuit against the school district.

He said the parents did not sue for money but to hold the school district accountable and to ensure something similar does not happen again.

“Kenney altered the underdeveloped brains of teenagers, and they all ended up dead because of it.”

The school board for the district in Sarasota, Florida, agreed to settle the lawsuits instead of proceeding to a civil jury trial.

The lawsuits were settled for $200,000 each. That is the maximum amount any Florida government agency—like a school district—can pay without special approval from the state legislature and governor.

It’s not a lot of money to compensate for the loss of a child.

But from years of experience dealing with parents of children who died become of someone’s negligence, we know that it is never about the money.

“These people don’t give a damn about the money … These people have dead children. There’s no money you can give them for that.”

Attorney Damian Mallard

Kenney was charged with practicing therapeutic hypnosis without a license. He pleaded no contest, and was sentenced to a year of probation.

The families’ attorney noted during a press conference that “The thing that is the most disappointing to them is he never apologized, never admitted wrongdoing and is now living comfortably in retirement in North Carolina with his pension.”

Insurance company tricks: a round-up of what you need to know

You pay for an insurance policy. In return, the insurance company is supposed to protect you and your property from loss or damage.

That doesn’t always happen.

Insurance company tricks and tactics

Allstate Insurance Company logo

One insurance company created a full “3D” strategy

There’s a strategy insurance companies use to try to keep your money: deny your claim, delay payment, and then put up a defense against your case.

If you need to file an insurance claim, you need to know about this insurance company tactic: Delay. Deny. Defend.


Did the insurance company send you to a “preferred service provider” for post-accident repairs?

Insurance companies may direct to mechanics who will use cheap, off-brand parts to repair your car after a wreck.

You could be driving a very dangerous car: How insurance companies sell you “aftermarket” car parts.

Will your car accident claim affect your insurance cost?

If you pay your auto insurance premiums, you shouldn’t be charged more to actually use the service for which you paid.

Some companies claim “accident forgiveness”: but one car wreck can have a big affect on your insurance bill.

Medical bills and liens: how insurance companies try to make you pay

Your health insurance will cover your medical expenses after an accident.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) will kick in when you file an accident claim.

Those insurance companies may file a lien against your injury claim: will you need to pay them back? How to handle the medical bills after a car accident.

It will save you $25 or so on your insurance payment, but it could cost you a lot more. Opting out of some insurance policy provisions is a bad idea: here’s why.

Denial of claims and bad faith

“Bad faith” means the insurance company is denying coverage or benefits to a policyholder who is rightfully owed that insurance coverage.

When your accident claim is unfairly denied, the insurance company could be “acting in bad faith”.  Insurance company denials, bad faith, and what you can do about it.

They could have just done the right thing, and paid out a $250,000 insurance policy five years ago. Allstate refused. Here’s what happened: A $22 million-dollar bad faith lesson for Allstate.

Remember, it is your right to talk to an attorney before you sign any insurance company documents.


Share Oregon’s (surprisingly effective) distracted driving videos

  • One quick text message can take your attention for 4.2 seconds. That’s long enough to drive 100 yards – the full length of a football field – without looking at the road.
  • Using a phone while driving has been against the law in Oregon since 2010. The Oregon DMV reports 9,607 convictions for the violation, just from January 1 – August 28, 2014.
  • The fine for violating the law is now $160 minimum, and as much as $500.

It’s dangerous. It’s against the law. It’s very expensive to get caught—either by the police, or because you cause a distracted driving crash.

But none of these facts are as powerful as these 30-second public service announcements from the Department of Transportation.

Share these videos—and remind the people you care about that distracted driving kills.


You might also be interested in …

Distracted Driving: Multi-Tasking Is a Myth

It’s worse than we thought: terrifying video study of teen distracted driving crashes

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