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Florida Judge Beats Up Public Defender

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This video is pretty amazing.  In fact, it's an embarassment to the legal profession and I think the judiciary in particular.  In this video, a Florida public defender is defending a man who apparently has been charged with assault and resisting arrest.  The public defender refuses to waive his client's right for a speedy trial and asks for the case to be set for trial.  The exchange between the Judge and the public defender is testy to say the least.  I'm sure there's more to the story and I'm willing bet these two have a history of not getting along.  Here's the video:

There is no place for this type of incivility in our legal profession.  It's more than incivility, it's an assault - the same criminal charge the defendant was facing!  If the judge really thinks this public defender is out of line he can hold the public defender in contempt of court and let his bailiff take care of it. But taking the argument into the hallway for a fist fight is pretty unbelievable.  The judge needs to show some serious self restraint and the public defender needs to show some respect for the judge and his courtroom.  And how about the reaction of crowd in the courtroom after the judge returns to the bench after beating up the public defender?  

Thankfully, this type of behavior is totally outside of the norm in Utah.  I've never seen or heard of anything like this happening in Utah's courtrooms. Generally, we have very good judges and counsel do a pretty good job of displaying civility in the courtroom and in other interactions.     

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Teen Driver Causes Crash - Passes Out After Holding Breath Through Tunnel

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It has been reported that a teen driver in Oregon caused a serious car accident yesterday after passing out while driving through a tunnel. He lost consciousness and his vehicle crossed the center line and struck a Ford Explorer nearly head-on. Four people were injured as a result of the accident. Apparently the driver was playing a game of trying to hold his breath while driving through the tunnel.  

According to the Associated Press, the tunnel at issue is 772 feet long. Therefore, a car traveling 55 miles-per-hour would pass through the tunnel in about 10 seconds. I guess this Oregon teen driver is not very good at holding his breath? But seriously, the important issue here is that some drivers, teens in particular, are apt to play certain games while driving. I can remember a good friend of mine that would honk before crossing a cattle guard - to warn the trolls that lived there. There are lots of supersitions and games that get circulated among teen drivers. Teen drivers need as few distractions as possible. Hopefully this story can be shared with other young drivers to help them understand the consequences of unsafe driving. As the Oregon State Police tweeted, "Don't play games on our roads."    

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Ride Your Bike To Work - National Bike to Work Day

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So this month is National Bike Month and this week is National Bike to Work Week and today is National Bike to Work Day!  Many communities across the nation are taking advantage of National Bike to Work Week to promote commuting by bicycle.  Of course, there are lots of reasons to encourage cycling to work.  You might be trying to save some gas money, improve your fitness, or lessen your environmental impact. Whatever your reason, it's a great way to get more connected to your community.  

One of our superstar paralegals at Handy & Handy told me about a fun article on that talks about the "Lingo of Safe Cycling."  Here's some examples taken from the NPR story:

Salmoning:  going against the stream in a one-way bike lane

Door Zone:  The space right next to a parked car.  If the driver happens to open the door just as your riding by, you're going to get "doored." (Cyclists have been seriously injured or killed because of this)  

Sharrow:  The is the symbol at the end of the bike lane - where cars and bikes begin to mix in a shared lane.  

Ninja:  This is the guy who wears dark clothes and rides at night with no lights.  Not a good idea.  According to Utah law cyclists are required to have a front and rear light in low light conditions.

Shoaling:  Shoaling occurs when cyclists congregate in groups like schools of fish at a red light.  

Idaho Stop:  When a cyclists treats a stop sign as a yield sign.  This happens all the time, but apparently it's only legal in the gem state.  

If communiting by bike to work is your thing, just be careful.  Be extra defensive and remember that cars don't see cyclists very well - just like they don't see motorcycles.  Cyclists need to follow and obey the rules of the road just like cars.  

In Utah, we recently had a tragic accident involving two men who were struck by a truck and killed while cycling to work early one morning.  As cycling becomes increasingly popular in our cities we have to do what we can to avoid auto-bike accidents.  Hopefully our cities and local governments will take steps to establish bike lanes and continue to educate drivers.  

For more information about sharing the road, check out Utah's Road Respect initiative.  It's a great program designed to get drivers and cyclists to show each other mutual respect and share the road.  I blogged about the Roard Respect Tour last year and I'm glad to see that Utah is keeping the initiative going.

And whatever you do, don't Salmon! 

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Arbitration for Utah Dog Bite Cases

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As a result of the recent 2014 Utah legistaltive session several new laws will take effect that will have an impact on public safety and tort law in general.  In particular, we're looking forward to HB287 which provides for arbitration in dog bite cases.  This law is very similar to the successful arbitration statute for third party motor vehicle accident enacted several years ago.  I have previously written about the third party motor vehicle arbitration statute here.   

In a typical dog bite case we see damages for past medical expenses, future medical expenses and pain and suffering.  For future medical expenses we often provide evidence from a plastic surgeon about the costs involved for a scar revision surgery.  As for the pain and suffering category, we're mainly focused on the permanent disfugurement casused by the dog bite.  We've had many dog bite cases involving permanent facial scarring.  This can be a significant injury for a person who is reminded of the dog bite attack everytime he or she looks in the mirror.  

Determining the value of a dog bite case can be difficult because of the subjective nature of the value of a scar.  How much should an insurance company pay for the permanent scar?  How much is it worth to the dog bite victim?  It depends on many factors but this area is often a main point of contention in dog bite cases.  I think this new arbitration statue will help us get results in these disputed cases in a quicker and more cost effective manner.  

Under the new dog bite arbitration statute the plaintiff (dog bite victim) can elect to submit her claim to arbitration.  Having the case decided by an arbitrator is an alternative to having the case decided by a Judge and/or jury.  One significant condition to arbitration under this statute is that arbitration awards are limited to a maximum of $50,000.00.  If the case might be worth more than $50,000.00 then arbitration may not be a good option for you.   

There are several other factors to consider when deciding whether or not to submit your claim to arbitration under Utah's new dog bite statute.  You should review these factors and alternatives with a lawyer that is experienced in litigating dog bite cases.  

We're looking forward to taking advantage of the benefits of this new statute.  This statute provides a great alternative for resolving disputed dog bite claims.  If you have any questions about the new dog bite arbitration statute or any dog bite case, please call us at our office or send an email.  

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Changes to Utah's Distracted Driver Law

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Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, Utah's new amendments to the Distracted Driving law will take effect.  Over the past several week there have been various news stories, but I'm not sure that everyone is aware of the changes.    

The new changes place restrictions on the use of a "handheld wireless communication device" while driving a car.  A handheld wireless communication device includes a cell phone, ipod, tablet, laptop, smart phone, kindle, nook, or "any substanitally similar communication device that is readily removable from the vehicle and is used to write, send, or read text or data through manual input."  

Here's a list of some things you cannot do with your phone/device while driving a car:

     write, send, or read a written communication, including:

          a text message

          an instant message

          an e-mail

     dial a phone number

     access the internet

     view or record video

     enter data

However, while driving your car you can still do the following:

     use the handheld communication device for voice communication

     use the handheld communication device for GPS navigation

     use during a medical emergency

     use when reporting a safety hazard

     use when reporting criminal activity

     use hands-free or voice operated technology

     use a system that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle

If you're found guilty of violating this law it's a class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $100.00.  But, if your violation of this law results in injury to someone else or if you have a prior conviction within three years it's a class B misdemeanor.  

Here's a few more things that are defined as careless driving:  searching for an item in the vehicle; or attending to personal hygiene or grooming.

You can read the full text of the Distracted Diriving law, Utah Code Ann. 41-6a-17, et seq., here.    

I think this law will likely make our roads a lot safer.  I would say that the cause of a majority of accident cases that we handle is due to distracted and inattentive driving.  If you have specific questions about Utah's new distracted driving law, please give us a call at our office at 801-264-6677.      

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