Washington Supreme Court Strikes Blow for Telephone Customers

August 28, 2008

Today the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously held in a thirty page opinion that Michael McKee could sue AT&T.

Mr. McKee received this green flag from the court a number years after he filed his suit. He is suing for false utility charges on the bill and for illegal, usurious late charges. He made his claim a class action on behalf of others in Washington.

This of course is what class action suits were intended to do, make a company responsible to everyone it wrongs when it gouges a small amount of money form a huge number of people. Otherwise there is no effective way to get them to stop.

The reason I linked to this case is because there is so much publicity against class actions and consumer law suits. I thought it would be useful for you to see how misleading the publicity blitz is. The cards are heavily stacked against the consumer.

I believe the Washington Supreme Court deserves a lot of credit for this unanimous decision protecting the rights of Washington consumers.

When Mr. McKee signed his contract with AT&T his entered into a Byzantine world of conditions, stipulations, and waivers of rights which literally stripped him of his right to sue and left him without any of the rights we think that we have when we enter into commerce.

Our Court found many of these provisions unconscionable and unenforceable in affirming the basic right to sue.

Yesterday I talked about a medical malpractice claim that had been in the Courts for nine years without having gone to trial. While it is unclear from the Court’s opinion, this case appears to have been in court for four years, each of which was spent litigating pretrial procedures. The case could easily go on for years to come.

Read if you will the opinion and see what Mr. McKee has had to go through to just get his right to a trial confirmed.


Is there no interest in politics?

August 28, 2008

I wonder how much interest there is in politics. My impression is that there are not very many people following events closely. In conversations I sometimes notice that there is not much in the way of fact or analysis behind a political opinion. People in general are very busy and at least many do not have time to invest in politics.  The networks do not seem to believe there is much interest, as coverage of the conventions is limited.

But being too busy does not account for all of it. Last night I raced out of my office to watch the convention. It did not seem to be on the televisions of the bars in the Pioneer Square area but the people at the New Orleans were happy to put it on.

It turned out to be quite an evening with Beau Biden speaking about his father (this was surprisingly moving), Joe Biden giving a spirited talk. Bill Clinton gave a rousing speech which should quell any doubt about his commitment to his party’s ticket. Kerry gave a great speech. I kept wondering as Kerry spoke “Where was this four years ago?”

I could not help but notice as the restaurant and bar filled that no one else had the slightest interest in the convention. There was not a glance at the tube and when I circulated around, no one was even talking about politics.

This apparent disinterest certainly distinguishes Americans from people in other countries. Our voter turn out is not only the lowest but my impression is that our level of interest is probably even comparatively speaking lower than citizens of other countries.

Last year for example I was in Borneo where a tribesman tried to engage me in a talk about Bush. We could not communicate effectively enough for a discussion but he got across to me that he favored the approach of fighting people rather than talking to them. This I admit did dampen my enthusiasm for a conversation with him.

But I think that for democracy to work, the voters must be informed. I am not sure that we as a group are currently at the required level of understanding for our democracy to function best. It seems that the information age has failed us in this respect.