An eventful month of July brought the closure of a long standing case in Kodiak. ALO represented the family of an autistic man who was apprehended by the Kodiak police after they received a call from a person who said someone was trying to get in a car. Nick Pletnikoff had reached into the open door of a car parked near his house and grabbed an envelope. A person in the car immediately took the envelope away and had his son call the police as Nick stood nearby. The police arrived, asked no questions, and within seconds forcibly took Nick to the pavement where he was eventually pepper sprayed.
During the encounter three officers were on top of Nick, one pulling his arm across his chest while Nick was on his back. That officer later admitted that her action prevented Nick from turning on his belly, which another officer was demanding, and that resulted in the spray. A video of the scene reveals what happened.
A judge watched the video and said the following. The Kodiak newspaper didn't do a great job on the facts but they did post this article. The main problem with their facts is the reference to Nick trying to break into the car. That never happened, but in the aftermath of the incident, the city said Nick tried to break into the car as a way to deflect some of the criticism it faced. Early on the city claimed that the officers didn't know Nick was special needs. Then the video revealed that one officer addressed Nick by name seconds into the encounter. He later admitted he knew Nick to be special needs. He failed to tell that to the other officers. In the aftermath of this event, Kodiak promoted the officer using the spray, and stopped using body cams on their officers. This case was not a good one for the Kodiak police.
The case was vigorously defended by the city, and in so doing the defendants missed an opportunity to ward off a lawsuit by simply apologizing to the family. Early on defense lawyers for the city resisted efforts to settle the case and in so doing hardened each side's position, a common error for defense lawyers in cases like this. The incident caused lasting damage to Nick, as described in this report. All references in this account have been approved by the Pletnikoff family.
A traffic accident in Anchorage also resulted in a settlement for an ALO client. A lady was run over in an intersection by a driver who turned right on red without noticing her in the cross walk. She suffered a significant head injury and received policy limits on the driver's insurance policy.
Another case came to a final conclusion when the plaintiff elected not to appeal the verdict in the Phillip Morris wrongful death case. ALO took on that case in 2007, and it went through three trials, two with defense verdicts and one a hung jury. Phillip Morris brought a team to Bethel for each trial, and a few of them took part in all three trials. Many of them took a liking to the rustic town on the tundra that became their home for several weeks each time. Here is one parting thought from a trial helper after learning that the case was indeed over.
The three cases represented quite an economic impact for Bethel. Lodging, office space, food service, car rentals, pool, and perhaps even the short lived liquor store all noticed a bump when Phillip Morris was in town. And maybe even ALO.
A Bethel client seriously injured in a car crash settled his claim against his own insurance company for near policy limits. All car insurance buyers in Alaska are offered underinsured motorist coverage in case of an accident where the at-fault driver doesn't have enough insurance to fully compensate. This buyer purchased a $500,000 UIM policy, and collected most of it when the at-fault driver in a high impact crash did not have enough coverage to fully compensate. Last month it was noted that a Kotzebue case settled. Here is an interesting news account of that case.
The high point of July outdoor activities came recently at the Angstman cabin, when Alex Wasierski and Casie Stockdale and their veteran guide headed from the cabin to the boat for a late evening outing. The trail is about 100 feet long, and Alex was leading the way by 50 feet or so. When he reached the end of the trail where it forks to the lake or the shed, Alex let out with a sound that suggested all was not well. No one can remember exactly what he said but all agree it clearly conveyed a bear warning to anyone listening. All except Jack the dog who spotted two small cubs, about his size, and bounded ahead to play with them. A sharp command to return was given, and Jack started back. The cubs were about 15 feet from Alex, and Jack was closer to them. After a couple bounds back, Jack reconsidered and again turned toward to cubs. This time the sharpest command possible turned him again and he took the trail back to his buddy. About then he met Mama bear, who came out of the trees and was following her cubs. Neither of them looked sideways as they passed about five feet from each other. The sport fishing crew beat a retreat to the cabin, while the subsistence fishing crew headed into the wilderness which starts right where they were last seen. Back on the deck, the humans searched for words and the dog issued a sharp bark. It took another few minutes before the boat trip commenced. It was the closest encounter with a sow and cubs ever and carried with it considerable risk, especially for Jack. It is hard to imagine why the sow didn't go after Jack at least with a charge or a huff. Whew!
Speaking of Jack, Casie took this shot of Jack at the best of many waterfalls encountered during her visit.
She also caught this 8 pound Dolly Varden, and it took two people to hold it.
There has been in increase in overall bear sightings this year. Casie saw 11 from the air and ground during her two day trip. Earlier a rare sighting of a bear chasing a bull moose highlighted one trip. None top last year's sighting of a mating pair from the sky. Speaking of bears, Dave Price took a video of a bear at the cabin a while back. It was posted on You Tube and has been viewed 23,000 times.
Ice cream has always been favored at the Angstman household. Father Pete ate a bowl of vanilla almost every night of his adult life. It is not consumed that often now, but not for lack of desire. On a recent Anchorage trip, a stop was made at Wild Scoops, an ice cream shop co-owned by former dog helper Chris Pike. The shop has attracted a huge following and the line outside the downtown location can get very long. A text to the owner made a complaint that rural elders are not accustomed to being at the back of the line. Chris said that might be a tough policy to introduce in Anchorage. The next night another text. Which said, "We're back in your xxxxx line." Chris sent a quick photo to the counter and free cones for the Angstman contingent resulted. One interesting event happened in the line. A homeless guy was standing in line in front of Sue and mentioned he didn't know why he was in line cause he had no money. Sue offered to buy him a cone, and later learned he was a former client of ALO from Holy Cross. Seems like an effective way to score something to eat on a tight budget.
A bit more about Dad's eating habits. While he liked ice cream, he wasn't fond of all dairy products. He was the youngest of 13 kids growing up on a farm in rural Princeton and didn't encounter a lot of variety in his diet. He only had a 4th grade education so didn't have a wide tapestry of life experience either. So when someone showed up on the farm with sour cream to put on potatoes, Dad was suspicious, suggesting that "Sour milk is no good , why would sour cream be any better?" As for cheese cake, his quote was "Why in hell would anyone make a cake out of cheese? "
Uriah Clarkson sent this mandatory moose photo from his backyard in the Matsu Valley. And this video demonstrates why you don't go skinny dipping in northern Alaska. There have been several such videos posted this year, meaning they must be extra bad. And they complain in Minnesota.
Finally, this being a legal newsletter, it seems fair to highlight other lawyers doing their thing. This is the favorite pair of lawyer quotes for July. There is a new standing order at ALO. If the main lawyer at ALO ever starts sounding like Rudy Guiliani sounds these days, intervene.