General Motors Knew of Ignition Switch Defect

Some things never change.  Even with increased U.S. automobile regulations and a “more litigious culture,” U.S. consumers continue to drive in death traps.  In the 1970s, it was revealed that Ford knew that its Pinto exploded upon rear-ending, but continued to produce them, and avoid implementing the $11 safety solution.  Similarly, this year, it was revealed that General Motors had knowledge of the deadly potential of its vehicles, but continued to produce them for over the past decade.

This year, GM has recalled 8.4 million vehicles, mostly due to a faulty ignition switch in the following vehicles:  1997-2005 Chevrolet Malibu, 1998-2002 Oldsmobile Intrique, 1999-2005 Pontiac Grand Am and 2003-14 Cadillac CTS.  

2005 Pontiac Gran Am, recalled

Knowledge of the defective ignition switch goes back to 2001.  The first reported death caused by a defective ignition switch was in 2005.  At least 13 deaths have been reported, to-date, with the potential for hundreds of more, where causation was possibly unknown.

Following the Ford crisis of the 1970s and the exploding Firestone SUV tire in 2000, Congress passed a law in 2000 requiring automakers to report to National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) any claims they received blaming defects for injuries or deaths, so the government would not have to rely only on consumer reports.    This law was called Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (“TREAD”) and is part of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, codified at 49 U.S.C. §§ 30101-30170.  NHTSA also has the ability to dig deeper into any of those claims by then doing a death inquiry — asking the automaker for documentation of each car accident and an assessment of the circumstances leading to each crash.

However, in this case, GM withheld this information from regulators at the NHTSA and in product liability litigation discovery responses.

A law is only as strong and effective as its application and enforcement.

With savvy corporate legal defense and hiding of information from regulators, and corporations’ sole objective being to increase profits, when can consumers fully trust a brand for its safety?  The issue really underscores the importance of the saying, buyer beware.  

If you have been injured by a recalled vehicle, you may have a product liability claim.  Some states have a two-year statute of limitations from the date of injury to bring a lawsuit, others have up to three years.   Feel free to contact product liability lawyer, Alexandra Filutowski, for a consultation.

Copyright 2014 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.

“Liking” Binds You To Arbitration, Says General Mills

Feeling lucky with your Lucky Charms, or tricked by those Trix?   Cereal company, General Mills (GM), is Kixing your right to sue the brand.

If you use a coupon, like the brand, or in some other way, get a benefit from the brand, GM says you cannot sue it.  Any dispute you have must be resolved over email negotiation and binding arbitration.

GM’s new legal terms and conditions

Today, GM states at the top of its website the following:

We’ve updated our Privacy Policy. Please note we also have new Legal Terms which require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration. For more information on these changes, please click here.

When you click “click here,” the additional Legal Terms, include:

• New provisions relating to any disputes. These new provisions contain an agreement to resolve any and all disputes you may have with General Mills or any of its affiliated companies or brands contain through informal negotiations and, if these negotiations fail, through binding arbitration.  This includes disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service.  All arbitrations will be conducted on an individual basis; you may not arbitrate as a member of a class. Claims may not be brought in court (with the limited exception of small claims court in certain circumstances), nor may you participate in any class action litigation. (See Section 3, “Binding Arbitration.”)

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Graco Stroller Recall Leads to New Product Safety Standard

Litigation and product recalls can improve product safety standards for the protection of future consumers.

In 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled 2 million Graco strollers after several reports of infant deaths caused by entrapment and asphyxiation.

Yesterday, ABC National News broadcast a report done by Consumer Reports   Consumer Reports did a story on the recalled Graco stroller and the loss of 7-month old Bobby.  This firm represents the estate of Bobby in Knipper v. Graco Childrens’ Products in New York.  This year, the CPSC adopted a mandatory safety standard for strollers.


Unfortunately, infant injuries and deaths caused by strollers are more common than one may guess.  In 2011, approximately 12,900 children under the age of five were treated in emergency rooms for injuries, mostly falls or strangulation.  On average, one child dies each year from stroller-related injuries according to data from 2007-2009.

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Giving the Gift of Peace of Mind, At A Discount


Wow, another year has flown by!  This year my firm added estate planning to its practice. In my personal injury work, I see how the lives of individuals and families are disrupted by a split second.  It is important to plan our personal finances and family affairs for the “worst case scenario.”  My firm is currently offering simple will packages for a discount price through 12/31/13.

The will package includes three parts:

  1. Will – a legal document that specifies how your residual estate  (e.g., value of your 401k, savings, prized personal belongings,  minus your debts) are distributed upon your death.   You can also specify the guardianship of your children and pets and online social media accounts, emails and digital photos;
  2. Power of Attorney – details who can make financial decisions on your behalf when you become mentally incapacitated; and
  3. Medical Directive – specifies how you will be medically treated when you are physically incapacitated from an accident or during your end-of-life stage


Regularly $400.  Now: $350.

For more information, visit FAQs on Wills.

I look forward to helping you with your estate planning needs.

Happy Holidays,

Alexandra Filutowski


A Lesson on Generosity From Past Attorney and Philanthropist

Three organizations in Seattle have something grand to be thankful for: generous charitable donations from Seattle attorney Jack MacDonald.   Children’s Hospital, The Salvation Army and the University of Washington School of Law received a total of $187m from the estate of Mr. MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald accrued a large wealth over his 98 years, yet lived modestly, taking the bus, wearing worn out clothing and living simply. He worked for the Veterans Administration for nearly 40 years.  Although retired, he still challenged his mind with his passion for investing in the stock market and reading the daily newspapers. Mr. MacDonald’s philanthropy  is the largest private donation in the history of Washington State. He leaves a legacy and sets an example for all of us.  Lessons we can learn from Mr. MacDonald: 1. Less can be more.  While Mr. MacDonald had less belongings, he lived a full, happy life and was able to give opportunity to those in need at three great organizations in Seattle. 2. Planning is imperative for peace of mind.  If you have a special someone in your life, family, children or other dependents, you should have some life-planning documents drafted to protect those you love.  Visit our estate planning page to learn more.

Lessons From Celebrities’ Poor Estate Planning

Celebrities who pass leave us with a memory of their talent, yet, sometimes also a lesson from the public chaos involving their estates.  A Forbes article highlights some lessons learned from celebrities.

Take for example, Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident at age 62 without a will.  His ex-wife and child from out of wedlock made claims.

Lesson: Get a will drafted when you have kin and an ex.

Jimmi Hendrix died at age 27 without  a will.  His brother, with whom he was close, received nothing under intestate laws.

Lesson: Get a will drafted when you have a family member, who under intestate laws, would not receive the bulk of your estate.

Stieg Larsson, famous author of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, died, leaving his longtime girlfriend of 32 years.

Lesson: Get a will drafted when you are unmarried and want your partner to receive your estate.

The estate of Marlon Brando, Godfather actor, was contested by a woman.  She eventually settled with the executor’s of the estate.

Lesson: State your intentions, clearly, in writing in a will to decrease chances of your will being contested.

Princess Diana wrote her intentions with the distribution of some personal trinkets in a letter.  The intended recipients only received a small amount of what Di wrote in her letter.

Lesson: Get a will or living trust properly drafted by an attorney to ensure your intended distribution of personal belongings are carried out properly.

Copyright 2013 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.




“Selfie” In Dictionary, What About Privacy?

With over 1.1 billion Facebook users, nearly 555 million Twitter users, and a secret number of users of the growing Tumblr, social media is a global network of unhindered self-promotion that led the Oxford dictionary to adding the word “selfie.”

“a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”

With instant, public postings of one’s observations (such as   comedian Kyle Ayers’ live tweeting a couple’s breakup), feelings and activities, which may involve unsuspecting third-parties in a selfie or social media post, the boundaries of individual privacy are shrinking.



What is privacy?  Googling “define: privacy” comes up with this definition:

the state or condition of being free from being observed or disturbed by other people.

Yet, with social media tools and smartphones, society is falling subject to an unstoppable global paparazzi for the sake of instant entertainment.

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Less Traffic Signals and Signs, Less Accidents?

According to one German town, the answer is definitively “yes.” In 2008, Bohmte (population 13,158) removed all traffic signals and signs and leveled the roadway for a “shared space” experiment, which has resulted in improved road safety.

While there are is no longer traffic signage, there still is traffic code (e.g., no speeding, unlawful to hit another car, cyclist or person).  However, the shared space has one concept: cars, bicyclists and pedestrians have equal rights.

An intersection that resulted in 45 accidents a year has improved road safety and the flow of traffic.  The lack of designated space is creating a natural deference to the intuition of individuals.  Drivers are making eye contact with others on the roadways and maintaining a safer speed.  Consequently, gridlock has reduced and individuals are taking accountability for safety.

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Google Glasses: The Ultimate Driver Distraction

Under Washington State Law, it is illegal to operate a moving vehicle while reading, writing, or sending a text message on a mobile device.

The reason why is because the mobile device texting feature is terribly distracting.  Watch this video by the Washington Traffic Commission:



Reading emails, placing calls, searching the internet, playing Angry Birds or operating an “app” are just as distracting to a driver, but per RCW 46.61.668, they are not explicitly prohibited distracting driver conduct.


Google Glasses offer a lot of (distracting) information to the user. Driver beware.

But what about Google Glasses?  The device is essentially a micro computer placed a centimeter from your eyeball enabling a user to access Google Maps, the Internet and email, among other features.

Experts anticipate Google Glasses will overtake the prescription glasses market.  What this means is the general public will be looking to Google (like it does for much anything else…”did you ‘Google’ it?”), in their glasses, diverting their attention from daily routine tasks, such as driving.

With the rapid development of new technology outpacing social norms and laws, some businesses and establishments are taking the issue into their own hands, and implementing electronic device bans.  Casinos and even a Seattle dive bar have banned Google Glasses.

Additionally, a CA police officer cited a driver for wearing the Google Glasses while driving,  because it is violative of section 27602.  Section 27602 in CA prohibits a person from multi-tasking with multimedia and driving.  Essentially, a driver may be cited:

if a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen, or any other similar means of visually displaying a television broadcast or video signal that produces entertainment or business applications, is operating and is located in the motor vehicle at a point forward of the back of the driver’s seat, or is operating and the monitor, screen, or display is visible to the driver while driving the motor vehicle.

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Faster Trial Date Likely In King County Superior Court

King County Superior Court will be shortening the timeline on civil cases between filing a lawsuit and trial.  The modification is part of a three-year plan.

Currently, after a plaintiff files a lawsuit, a case schedule is issued per Local County Civil Rule 4.   Prior to the case schedule modification, the case was assigned a trial date  534 days (approximately 17.5 months) from filing.  The King County Superior Court (KCSC) determined that the schedule was unnecessarily long for most civil cases and prevented the Court from meeting state-imposed civil disposition standards.

The Court is reducing the time to trial in weekly increments, with a milestone of 15 months, then just  down to 12 months.

The Court is surveying practicing lawyers to gauge whether the change will have a strong impact on their practice, and whether the impact will be negative or positive.  If it receives mostly positive feedback from stakeholders (i.e., judges and lawyers), the Court will continue to shorten the case schedule every few weeks, ultimately reaching the 12-month timeline by the beginning of 2015.

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