Every year through Project Healing Waters members of the Southern Oregon Fly Fishers put on a fly fishing class for disabled vets staying at the White City Domiciliary. At the end of the class several members take the veterans steelhead fishing on the Rogue River. This year Richard Adams had the privilege of rowing a Marine from the battle of Khe Sanh. Project Healing Waters is a growing international organization which has made a difference in the lives of some of these men and woman who have served our country. http://www.projecthealingwaters.org
Personal injury lawyers make us all safer. Remember Ralph Nader? Ever wondered what happened to the Corvair automobile and the claim it was unsafe at any speed? Or what is the deal with the McDonald’s hot coffee case? The one you’ve heard about where the lady supposedly spilled hot coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s. I’ve worked in the civil justice system for over 35 years, representing real people injured through unsafe practices. I am very pleased to see the creation of Ralph Nader’s Tort Museum. Read about it here:
This museum puts the lie to the many stories you’ve heard from big corporations and their propaganda machines. Ralph Nader’s career as a personal injury lawyer has made us all safer.
Sometimes you try an unforgettable personal injury case. The injuries in this case were the broken hearts of two kids who loved their dad. And elder abuse of a senior citizen who deserved better. We’ve all heard stories of late life marriages to a younger bride which result in disinherited kids. This Grants Pass, Oregon jury case went beyond the stereotype to include: a sordid cult, the death of a United States Congressman, the breakup of two families, and the dissipation of a small redwood lumber fortune. The defendant was a Black Widow from the People’s Temple. A Grants Pass, Oregon jury rendered justice.
The linked article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Trial Lawyer magazine, the quarterly journal of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.
In most personal injury cases that go to court, my clients testify twice: 1) in a deposition and 2) at trial. I work very hard to prepare my clients for these events. After my clients give their depositions or testify at trial they sometimes say: “Now I see why you spent so much time working with me in preparation.” The time spent is critical. I help my clients to be confident and comfortable while testifying. Then they can accurately and truthfully testify about the wreck, the injuries and the treatment. And how they have been harmed by the negligence of a bad driver or other wrongdoer.
The strategy of insurance defense counsel in almost every personal injury claim is to attack the injured person’s credibility. They will look for every little conflict between what the plaintiff says he told the doctor compared to what the doctor records in her chart. Busy doctors working hard to treat people’s problems don’t always get the history right. Like the reported speed of the cars involved in a wreck. Or all the patient’s body parts that hurt when some appear much more serious. The insurance defense lawyer will try to blame the plaintiff for that conflict to deflect the blame away from the defendant. With the preparation I offer my clients, they are in a much better position to hold the insurance company accountable.
Often the insurance company lawyer has a defense doctor examine the plaintiff. Those doctors specialize in working for insurance companies and writing reports and testifying in favor of insurance companies. Many of those doctors don’t even treat patients. They know what to say in order to get repeat business. They help give the insurance lawyer ammunition to use against the plaintiff, often pointing out trivial conflicts in the medical record. These insurance doctors often criticize the plaintiff’s treating doctor who is working very hard to help get their patients better.
My job is to thoroughly prepare my clients to stand up against these attacks by insurance doctors and insurance defense lawyers. That’s why I spend the necessary time with my clients in the comfort of my offices before they testify.
I have handled personal injury and workers’ compensation claims in the Grants Pass, Oregon building where I started my practice in October of 1980. The location right across the street from the courthouse is too convenient to change. The shelves of books and other things our office has acquired over the decades of our busy law practice remind me of the lawyers who hired and trained me. The example set by their brilliance, hard work and devotion to clients I wish on every young lawyer. I know I use skills and attitudes to serve my clients that I learned from them at an early stage of my career. I had great fun writing the following article which originally appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Trial Lawyer magazine, the quarterly journal of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association.
Elder abuse, injury and neglect in nursing homes and interference with inheritance. For better or for worse, our family relations are becoming more complex. Divorces split families. Remarriages sometimes compound separation. Kids become alienated. New priorities prevail. People live longer, whether or not mental capacity keeps pace with physical endurance. In this environment, people plan estates. And plan their retirement residency. With careful planning, wills, trusts, lifetime transfers or 401(k) or life insurance beneficiary designations control what happens to our property when we pass on. With careful financial planning and nursing home selection and family oversight, seniors can live long happy lives.
The law reflects society’s goal to assure that people’s choices are honored. To do that the law recognizes that influences come to bear on peoples’ decisions. Persons with dementia, without the ability to recognize their loved ones or the extent of their holdings cannot by law make binding dispositions of their estates. But many people are clearly competent, but nevertheless, make estate planning decisions which are not necessarily the product of their own free will. Or cannot advocate for themselves while confined to a nursing home leading to injuries and neglect.
Experts who understand the thoughts and needs of seniors recognize people can act subject to the influence of those around them. Many seniors are dependent on care givers whose power to cause changes to an estate plan to favor them can be significant. Those caregivers could be hired help, a neighbor or friend, or even a new spouse after the death of a person’s longtime mate. The law considers that power to influence a person’s estate planning choices by prescribing some legal rules in an attempt to uphold peoples’ estate plans which are a product of free will and set aside estate plans which are not. The law also gives seniors rights to pursue damages for elder abuse or neglect causing physical or emotional harms.
As boomers age, the frequency of will contests or trust contests may increase. A common scenario is the disinheritance of children of a first marriage when dad or mom remarries after a spouse’s death. Dad may have set out to share his estate with his own children but plans can go awry, sometimes because of the undue influence of the new spouse whose goal may be to benefit her children from a prior marriage, not her step children who were perceived as resenting her from the beginning. Sometimes the new spouse should be the beneficiary. Society will honor dad’s choice to leave his estate to whomever he wishes, so long as the choice was a product of his own free will, unfettered by dementia rendering him incompetent or by the undue influence of a third party taking advantage of him.
Challenges to an estate plan typically occur in what’s called a declaratory judgment proceeding before a judge who decides whether a particular trust or will is truly the product of the person’s free will or is the result of dementia. Or the undue influence from the new spouse, or caregiver, or close business associate or advisor. Because direct evidence of undue influence over a person’s estate planning decision may be impossible to identify because the influencer will not want her behavior uncovered, the court will look at a number of factors which suggest influence and sometimes shift the burden of proof to the alleged influencer.
Persons intentionally interfering with an inheritance can also be held liable for money damages by those disinherited. Nursing homes or care providers can be held liable for damages for harms caused to elders. Those cases can be determined by a jury under specific instructions as to what they must find in order to award damages. Persons injured in a nursing home by neglect or failing to supervise staff need strong advocacy.
Welcome to the Rogue Law Firm. I’ve handled personal injury and workers compensation cases as a partner in the firm at the corner of 5th & B in Grants Pass, Oregon for over thirty years. Because I like new challenges and independence I decided to start a new law firm for the next years of my career. Esther Stark, my wonderful legal assistant of many years became part of the Rogue Law Firm too but recently retired to marry a wonderful man and live on an island in the Puget Sound. She has been succeeded by Christy Spurling-Snyder who is a remarkable resource for our clients with her great skill, personality and big heart.
I continue my long association with my former partners and friends who are now practicing under the name: Davis Freudenberg Day & Galli. I am “of Counsel” to their new firm which means the firms will be independent of each other but continue to work closely together on behalf of clients.
Rogue Law Firm will share the office building with my former partners so our clients will continue to benefit from convenient access to the courthouse, ample parking, a comfortable office building and excellent communication and access to me and my staff. We are located in the same law office building at the corner of 5th and B in which I started practicing in October of 1980. Right across the street from the courthouse.
Rogue Law Firm offers free first appointments on personal injury and workers’ compensation matters and contingent attorney fees.