Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Archive for January, 2011

Court Supports Disclosure Of Medical Incident Data In Doctor’s Negligence Suit Against Bellingham Hospital

by January 31st, 2011

SUMMARY: A then-staff physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash. was herself a patient there in January, 2007 and suffered permanent neurological damage resulting from an intravenous infusion during the stay. She filed a corporate negligence claim against the hospital and its parent company PeaceHealth – which operates facilities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska – and for trial “discovery” proceedings sought internal records on any other documented IV complications at St. Joseph from 2000 through 2008. The records were retrievable through a database maintained by the hospital’s quality assurance committee. A trial court first upheld her information request, but then in response to a motion by the parent company, denied it, citing state law about such committees as a reason for strict confidentiality. The plaintiff asked a state appeals court to intervene and uphold her right to get and use the information in her legal action. Washington Court of Appeals District I in Seattle ruled in her favor today, stating in its opinion that although state law does prevent disclosure of the internal workings of hospital quality assurance committees and prevent direct outside disclosure of medical incident reports themselves, it “may not serve as an artificial shield for information contained in ordinary medical records.” The Appeals Court ordered that PeaceHealth would have to permit internal retrieval and inclusion in Lowy’s trial of information on “underlying facts and explanatory circumstances” of “alleged injuries, complications, malfunctions or adverse events” associated with any IV infusions at St. Joseph from 2000 through 2008.

Wildlife Refuge Locator: Online Guide To Washington, U.S.

by January 28th, 2011

SUMMARY: A U.S. government online compendium provides convenient access on a state-by-state basis to official Web pages of national wildlife refuges. The Web guide to these facilities may be used for day-trip and vacation planning, as background information for visitors, and a research resource. In Washington state, there are 23 national wildlife refuges featuring a wide range of habitats and species.

BACKGROUND: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge Locator is an online map-based interface allowing users to click on any of the 50 states for a map-based aggregation of links to official USFWS Web pages of national wildlife refuges in those state. We take a look here at what the database tells us about national wildlife refuges in Washington state.

KEY LINK: National Wildlife Refuge Locator, Washington State, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Drumheller Channels, Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

USER INSTRUCTIONS: From the National Wildlife Refuge Locator hub, which displays a map of all 50 states, click directly on Washington. That will take you to the Locator’s Washington state map page. There, click directly on the typed name of any refuge (not the nearby map dot). You will arrive at a page with an overview of the site, a description of its location and a shortcut to Google Maps for more precise location data and customized directions. Each overview page includes a link to the refuge’s full Web site, for further information.


Washington State has 23 National Wildlife Refuges. Most, though not all, have sections which are open to visitors for hiking and respectful observation of species and natural environments. Overviews of several follow.

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on the Olympic Peninsula features a 5.5-mile long spit which can be hiked to the end, where a lighthouse and museum are open to visitors. The refuge gained protected status in 1915 at the behest of President Woodrow Wilson. It has been visited by some 250 recorded species of birds, 41 land mammal and eight marine mammal species. Black Brant geese proliferate in April, and harbor seals give birth to pups at the end of the spit. The refuge is especially popular with families, and is accessed by a short hike through a wooded area.

Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is considered an especially unspoiled estuary. It has more than 260 square miles of water surfaces and varied ecosystems such as salt marshes, tideflats, old growth forest, and coastal dunes and beaches. Brown pelicans, marbled murrelets, bald eagles and great blue herons are on view.

The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge For The Columbia White-Tailed Deer comprises 5,600 acres along the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon. It includes pastures, forested tidal swamps and marshes. In addition to the namesake deer, it is home to wintering birds, elk, river otter, painted turtles, red-legged frogs, nesting eagles and osprey.

Columbia National Wildlife Refuge features cliffs, canyons, lakes and sagebrush grasslands. It was carved out by long-ago fires, ice, floods and volcanic activity, and sits amidst the Drumheller Channelled Scablands, which include the dramatically eroded Drumheller Channels, named a National Natural Landmark. Among bird species prevalent are mallard ducks, Canada geese and tundra swans.

WA Supreme Court: Department Rules No Liability Shield In Car-Accident Damage Suit By Spouse Of State Worker

by January 26th, 2011

SUMMARY: The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that the State of Washington may not escape liability for a negligence claim stemming from injuries caused to a spouse riding as an unauthorized passenger, when a state vehicle driven on state business by her husband, a Department of Ecology intern, went out of control and overturned several times on State Route 18. A trial court had rejected the spouse’s claim because her husband was breaking department rules by taking her on the work trip in the state vehicle when she was not on state business. But an appeals court reversed the trial court, stressing that the state bore “vicarious liability” for its employee regardless, because he was pursuing work duties at the time of the accident. The Supreme Court affirmed that, and sent the case back to the trial court with an order to enter a summary judgement in favor of the plaintiff and determine damages.

New Study: Taco Time Test Reveals King County Mandate On Fast Food Menu Labeling Doesn’t Cut Calories

by January 25th, 2011

SUMMARY: Public health concerns about obesity have prompted requirements by some governments that restaurants, especially fast food chains, disclose calorie and other nutritional information at the point of purchase, to help compel healthier consumer choices. But a newly-published study by Duke National University Of Singapore Graduate Medical School and King County public health researchers finds that based on field testing at Taco Time outlets in King County and in non-King County control locations, that King County’s mandatory menu labeling requirements for large fast food chains so far does not demonstrate the intended effect of lowering the number of fast-food transactions and the average amount of calories per transaction. The latter was found to have actually risen slightly in the King County Taco Time locations from before any enforcement to the final stage of implementation with indoor and drive-through signage.

Recent Vehicle Recalls Include Saab, Honda, GM Light Trucks, Ducati Cycles, Salem And Keystone Trailers

by January 24th, 2011

SUMMARY: The U.S. federal government’s database of vehicle safety recalls shows that manufacturer reports to date in January, 2011 of needed recalls have included up to 4,400 Saab 9-3s made in the second half of 2010; up to 25,751 2011 GM light trucks (12 different varieties); up to 2,277 2010 Honda Accords and CR-Vs, up to 1,196 2010 Ducati MTS 1200S motorcycles; smaller numbers of Daimler trucks made in 2009; and 2010-2011 Keystone and 2009-2011 Salem travel trailers. The defects cited by manufacturers in most of these recalls could cause either a sudden vehicle stall or loss of vehicle control, increasing the risk of a crash. Further details below, under “Key Findings.”

BACKGROUND: Federal law requires manufacturers of passenger and commercial vehicles, vehicle parts and passenger restraints to notify the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration if they discover defects in their products which could compromise passenger safety. The recall notices are accessed through the NHSTA’s Web site. Owners of vehicles potentially at risk are typically advised to visit dealers for inspections to determine if their vehicles require repairs, which are almost always performed free of charge.

USING THE DATABASE: At, under “Safety Recalls,” use the first pull-down menu on the upper right (“select type”) to select recalls by vehicle (model year, make and model), child restraints, tires, equipment, recall Campaign ID #; or by recalls since yesterday, recalls since the 1st of the current month, or recalls from previous months.

Drilling down by vehicle (model year, make and model) will bring you to a page with a summary of the recall and a “document search” tab in the lower left corner which yields the original recall notification letter from the manufacturer to the NHTSA, and sometimes other documents as well. These letters typically have additional information not found in the summary files.

You can also subscribe to the NHTSA’s safety recall e-mail notification system.

KEY LINK: Vehicle safety recalls notices since the 1st of the month, from, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as of 1/24/11.


  • On 1/17/11, Saab reported a planned recall of up to 4,400 Saab 9-3s made between 6/10 and 12/10. Some original fuel pumps can seize, prompting an engine stall which heightens the risk of a crash. Saab plans to contact the owners of the affected vehicles and replace the pumps free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/14/11, Forest River reported that on up to 209 of its Salem travel trailers, the bottom leaf spring amy rotate out of position and make contact with the tire, causing a tire blow out without warning and a loss of vehicle control which could result in property damage “and/or personal injury or death.” The recall was to begin in January, with dealers to perform corrective repairs for no charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to to NHTSA).
  • On 1/6/11, General Motors reported that on up to 26,751 different light trucks, spread across 12 different 2011 GM models, rear axle cross pins weren’t correctly heat-treated and thus could fracture and shift out of position, causing the rear axle to lock and the driver to lose control of the vehicle and crash without warning. The models are Cadillac (Escalade, Escalade ESV 1500, Escalade EXT 1500), Chevrolet (Avalanche 1500, Colorado, Silverado 1500, Suburban 1500, Tahoe); GMC (Canyon, Sierra 1500, Yukon, Yukon XL 1500). Dealers will install new rear axle cross pins of affected models, free of charge. the recall campaign is to begin on or before 1/25/11. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/7/11, Daimler Trucks of North America reported that up to 366 of its Freightliner Business Class M2 trucks manufactured between 8/25/09 and 9/3/09 have inboard seat anchor plates which may not hold the seat belt apparatus in place, increasing the risk of the seat belt not working as intended, and the risk of injury. The safety recall is to begin on or before 3/11/11. Daimler Trucks will replace the part free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/5/11, Ducati reported that up to 1,196 of its 2010 MTS 1200S motorcycles could stall, increasing the risk of crash, if the driver downshifts or maneuvers with the clutch disengaged and the engine at idle. Ducati will repair the affected cycles by re-flashing the electronic control units free of charge. (Original Safety Defect And Non-Compliance Report from manufacturer to NHTSA).
  • On 1/6/11 Honda reported that up to 2,277 2010 Accords and CR-Vs could stall, increasing the risk of a crash, due to a potential failure of the engine harness wiring connector. Dealers will replace the part on affected units free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification to NHTSA).
  • On 1/4/11, Keystone RV Company reported that up to 1,086 of their 2010-2011 Cougar, Laredo and Outback travel trailers could separate from the hitch ball on the tow vehicle due to lacking a necessary indentation on the hitch coupler, possibly causing property damage and/or vehicle crash. Owners should inspect their hitch coupler and if it is not stamped correctly, the dealer will replace it free of charge. (Manufacturer’s letter of notification from to NHTSA).

Washington State K-12 Bilingual Ed Transition Success Rate Drops 24 Percent In ’09-’10; Spending Reaches New High

by January 19th, 2011

SUMMARY: According to a new report from Washington state’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the number of students enrolled in the Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP) in grades K-12 in Washington public schools in the 2009-2010 school year grew by 2.2 percent from the prior year and state bilingual K-12 spending reached a new high, but the number who were able to pass the test to move into English-only classrooms dropped by 24 percent compared to the prior school year. Only 12 percent of more than 92,000 students classified as English Language Learners or ELL (primary language not English) made the transition to all-English instruction based on proficiency tests administered last year. Students in grades 9-12 had particularly low success rates on transition tests although the large majority of them were not new to the bilingual program. Overall, state education officials point to a lack of available certificated teachers who can provide instruction in non-English primary languages, of which Spanish is predominant. ELL students who had transitioned out by last year fared notably less well on state achievement tests than other students.