Oregon Law

Superlawyers Magazine Is Out-Jeremiah Ross Made the Cut

The 2018 Superlawyer Magazine for Oregon has been published.  Jeremiah Ross was named a "Superlawyer" and is featured on page 26 for his representation of plaintiffs in personal injury cases in Oregon.   Superlawyers notes each candidate was selected based on, "Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel."  According to Superlawyers, only 5% of lawyers are given the distinction of a Superlawyer. Jeremiah Ross is honored to receive this distinction.   

Superlawyer icture.PNG

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car crash or due to the negligence of another, call Portland Personal Injury lawyer Jeremiah Ross for a free case evaluation.  Please call Ross Law PDX at 503.224.1658.  Please note that Jeremiah Ross cannot guarantee case results and all cases and outcomes vary. This post and the Superlawyers website is attorney advertising.  

Is Your Lemon Law Case Ripe for Litigation?

Each week I field calls from people that have purchased a defective vehicle.   The caller typically informs me they recently purchased a "lemon" and the vehicle suffers from various mechanical issues. At that point it is important to ask a few basic questions to determine if this is truly a lemon law case.  Oregon's Lemon Law has a very specific definition of vehicles that are protected by its "Lemon Law." 

It is important to note what Oregon's lemon law is. Oregon's Lemon law is comprised of a group of statutes starting at ORS 646A.400 and continuing through ORS 646A.418.   The law basically states that if a new motor vehicle does not conform to the manufacturer's express warranty, and the consumer alerts the manufacturer or the authorized dealer of the nonconformity then the consumer may be entitled to a replacement or a refund, and damages.  However, just like many things in the law it is not that simple.  The law has certain requirements that must be fulfilled before a lemon law case is ripe for litigation.

First, the motor vehicle must be no more than two years old or have less than 24,000 miles on it, which ever period ends first.  Most consumers cannot meet this first element, because the vast majority of the "material defect" used car cases involve vehicles over 2 years old.  True "lemon law" claims involve new vehicles, not ten year old jalopies.  The Lemon Law also does not apply to travel trailers, because they are not self propelled or a vehicle designed for self propulsion.   

The second big issue the consumer faces are, the consumer must report each "nonconformity" to the manufacturer, or the authorized dealer, for the purpose of repair or correction during the two year period following the date of delivery or before the vehicle's mileage reaches 24,000, whichever comes first. The law basically provides consumers presumptions that the motor vehicle is a lemon if their were a reasonable number of attempts under the vehicle's express warranties, and the manufacturer receives advance notice of the defects before attempting the repairs.  The law presumes a reasonable number of attempts have been made if the vehicle has either been in the shop for 3 or more times, and the defect continues, or the vehicle is out of service by repair for a total of 30 or more calendar days.  There is also another presumption the vehicle is a lemon if there is one attempted repair of a nonconformity likely to cause death or serious injury, but the defect continues. 

The manufacturer must also receive "direct written notification" from the consumer, and has had the opportunity to correct the alleged defect.   Notification, can be a request for an "informal dispute settlement procedure" under ORS 646.608.  This means that the consumer must put the manufacturer or the authorized dealer on notice the vehicle is defective and provide an opportunity to cure the alleged defect. It also means that if the manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement procedure and notifies the consumer of the procedures then the consumer must  resort to the informal resolution procedure (arbitration)  prior to filing a lawsuit.  

If the consumer can satisfy the legal requirements then their case may be ripe and they may feast on the Lemon Law remedies.  The remedies may include, rescission, replacement of the vehicle, or triple damages (capped at $50,000.00 above the amount owed to the consumer). The court may also award discretionary attorney fees, and costs.  The Lemon law can be a powerful tool.  Unfortunately it can also be a sour pill to swallow if the consumer learns they failed to comply with the notice requirements or there vehicle is too old to qualify as a lemon.

If you or someone you know believe they were sold a lemon, please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658.  Also, please remember this blog is a summary of the law.  Please refer to the actual law or a lawyer for an evaluation of your case.   Do not rely on this post for legal advice.  The law is constantly changing and this post may be outdated.  Please do not cite this post in any governmental proceeding, arbitration, hearing, or negotiations.   

Can an Oregon Dealer Sell a Vehicle with the "Service Engine Soon" light illuminated?

 I frequently receive calls from people asking about whether or not an Oregon car dealer can lawfully sell a vehicle that has a "Service Engine Soon" light illuminated.    As with many legal issues there is not a clear cut answer to this question.   Typically it is unlawful for a vehicle dealer to sell a vehicle that has the service engine soon light illuminated to a person that will be registering the vehicle in the Portland or Medford Metro Region.  In other words, in most cases if a dealer sells a vehicle to a person living in certain places then the vehicle cannot have a service engine soon light illuminated.   If the purchased vehicle has a service engine soon light illuminated then it is most likely a violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act if the vehicle will be registered in the Portland or Medford Metro Region. (ORS 646.608 (1)(u) via Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 137-020-0020 (3) (o) see Commentary)

Image from Oregon DEQ Website

 

Here is a breakdown of the law:

The Law:  OAR 137-020-0020 (3) (o)'s Official Commentary states: "When a dealer sells a vehicle to an individual that is registering the vehicle in a metro area that requires that the vehicle pass DEQ emissions testing to be roadworthy, the dealer must ensure that the vehicle can pass the DEQ emissions test at the time of sale."

The DEQ Inspection:   The Oregon DEQ operates a Vehicle Inspection Program in the Portland and Rogue Valley areas of Oregon. In these areas, an emissions test is required when registering or renewing a vehicle with Oregon DMV. (ORS 803.350 (4)) The DEQ notes vehicles are the number one source of air pollution in Oregon. Emissions can lead to high smog levels and contain air toxics, carbon monoxide and greenhouse gasses, which can have a variety of effects on Oregonians. The DEQ claims the vehicle Inspection Program is a successful, cost-effective way to reduce air pollution and maintain good air quality.    

The Service Engine Soon Light:  The "Service Engine Soon" light or "Check Engine Soon Light" are lights that are intended to alert drivers there is a problem with the vehicle's On Board Diagnostics (OBD). Sometimes the warning light is simply an illuminated engine symbol. These lights often illuminate when there is an issue with a key engine component or the emissions system.   That is why they are called Malfunction Indicator Lights (MIL). If MIL lights blink or flash then it may indicate a serious engine malfunction.  Some of these issues are quick fixes, but many times they are not.    When there is a problem then the vehicle will issue a "Diagnostic Trouble Code" (DCT) and store it in the vehicle's computer memory.  This code aids a qualified service technician in diagnosing and repairing the problem.  

The DEQ Inspection and The Service Engine Soon Light:  The DEQ will not issue a certificate to a vehicle that has a Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL) illuminated. This is due to the fact the DEQ tests the vehicle's On Board Diagnostics (OBD) on vehicles that are 1996 or newer.  The OBD is a Computer that tracks if the vehicle has any issues. The OBD monitors misfires, the fuel system, certain engine components, the catalytic converter, the oxygen sensor and heater, and EGR valves.  The OBD will trigger the MIL if any of these systems have a problem.   As a result, the vehicle cannot pass DEQ if the MIL is illuminated because the MIL indicates there is a problem with the vehicle's key components or emissions systems.  Therefore, a vehicle with a MIL light illuminated is not "roadworthy" as mandated by (OAR) 137-020-0020 (3) (o).    

Where are the Metro Regions requiring a DEQ Emissions Test:  The DEQ has specific boundaries for the Metro Regions requiring testing.  The Metro Regions requiring DEQ inspections are areas surrounding Portland and Medford (aka Rogue Valley Area).  If you live inside those boundaries and will be registering your newly purchased vehicle then your vehicle must pass a DEQ inspection in order to be "roadworthy."  

Click on the Image To See If You Are In A Metro Region requiring a DEQ Inspection 

Not All Vehicles Need to Pass DEQ In Order to Be Registered:  Some vehicles do not need to pass the DEQ inspection due to the vehicle's age, type, or where the vehicle will be registered. For more information see DEQ Web-Site or OAR 340-256-0300.

What if The Service Engine Soon Light Illuminates Shortly After Purchase:  A service engine soon light that illuminates shortly after purchase is often indicative of a recent "reset" of the OBD.   Sometimes a vehicle's OBD can be reset by simply removing the battery.   Also   "diagnostic trouble codes" can be reset.  If that is done the MIL will often be turned off once the battery is reconnected.  The vehicle then needs to drive through a driving cycle to determine if there is a problem.  Sometimes this may take a few miles, other times it may take a week or so.  The vehicle's OBD will indicate it is "not ready" if the vehicle is re-diagnosing any issues and is in a drive cycle.  If the vehicle's OBD indicates "not ready" at the DEQ then this is a good indication the vehicle's OBD has been reset recently and prior to the sale. This may be a violation of ORS 646.608 (1), OAR 137-020-0020 (3),  ORS 815.305, and other state and federal regulations.   

The Law Prohibits Disconnecting or Altering Pollution Control Equipment:   If a person disconnects the battery in an effort to reset the OBD then they may be breaking the law.   It is against the law for a person to disconnect or permit someone to disconnect vehicle air pollution devices.  It is also against the law for a person to modify or alter factory installed pollution control systems in a manner that reduces its efficiency or effectiveness.  There are some exemptions to this law.  (See ORS 815.305 for details)

There are many issues that can arise if a vehicle is sold with a service engine soon light illuminated.  Sometimes it is not illegal for a dealer to sell a vehicle with a MIL illuminated, while other times it is.  It is best to consult with a lawyer at 503.224.1658 if you think you were sold a vehicle unlawfully.  At Ross Law LLC we regularly represent consumers that have issues with vehicles being sold with service engine soon lights illuminated.  Also, please remember this post is not considered legal advice, call a lawyer for legal advice.  Furthermore, the law is constantly changing, so please do not rely solely on this post.  Rely on the text of the actual laws, regulations, and rules that apply to your situation.  

What You Need To Know Before Putting Your Kid on a Bike

The other day I was loading my son into his bicycle seat when he said in his demanding toddler voice, "I need my helmet."   I was a proud dad at that point, because I realized that all of the nagging and fussing over him wearing the helmet is a thing of the past (for now at least).  Helmets are only one issue when taking kids on bikes and Parents should be familiar with the various issues that effect the tiny people on bikes.  Below are some of the issues I think every parent should know before putting their kid on a bicycle.

1) Helmets are Required for kids riding a bike:  I represented a five year old that was hit by a car as the tiny little guy was crossing the street.  He was dragged roughly 15 feet underneath the car, but miraculously his injures were limited to a broken arm and an severely injured knee. The little guy's helmet was obliterated, but doctors confirmed he did not have a head injury.  The helmet had most likely saved this little guy's life.  We all know they are a good idea, but it is also Oregon Law that kids under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Specifically, ORS 814.485 requires kids to wear a helmet when riding a bike.  If the child does not wear a helmet then they can be fined.  

2)  Helmets are Required if the Kid is Riding as a Passenger on a Bike:  I use both a bike seat and a trailer to transport my little guy.  Either way my son is required to wear a helmet while he is a passenger on a bike.  ORS 814.486 requires passengers on bicycles who are under the age of 16 to wear a helmet. The parent can be fined if they violate this law.  The parent can also be fined for violating the law that mandates a child under the age of 16 must have a helmet while on a bicycle.  This can result in two fines.

3) There is Only a Limited Exemption That Allows Kids to Ride Without a Helmet:  The law exempts kids from wearing helmets if wearing a helmet would interfere with the child's religious beliefs. ORS 814.487.  

4) If Your Kid Was Injured and Wasn't Wearing a Helmet, an Insurance Company Should NOT use That To Reduce The Amount of Compensation Your Child Receives:  Although it is the law that a kid under 16 must wear a helmet, the law is forgiving in the fact that it prevents the jury from learning the kid wasn't wearing a helmet in a Jury Trial or Arbitration.  ORS 814.489    This prevents the insurance company from blaming the injured child or the child's parents for not wearing a helmet.  An understanding of this law is key in obtaining maximum compensation for a child who was injured while riding a bicycle.

5) There Is Not An Minimum Age to Ride As a Passenger on a Bicycle: When my son was a tiny little guy I was eager to get him on the back of the bike.   I tirelessly researched the minimum age required for a little person to ride as a passenger on the bike.  Not surprisingly, there is not a law in Oregon mandating a minimum age for a kid to ride as a passenger on a bike.  Our pediatrician was also unaware of any hard and fast rules regarding the age of a kid to ride a bicycle.  There is a dearth of information on the issue. However, she suggested that at a minimum a baby should be able to comfortably hold their head up for a long period of time.  This is important because the tiny person's head gets jarred around on the bike.  They need the strength to protect their neck and brain from the little trauma that occurs while going over a bumpy road.  Also, their brains are not completely developed and the constant jarring can effect brain development.  Wearing a helmet can complicate things because they can tweak the spine and push the head forward in an unnatural position.   The linked article has a more thorough explanation regarding the various health issues that may arise while riding with small kids on bikes.   In the end my son was a little over a year when he started riding with us. 

If you have any more questions or concerns about Oregon's bicycle helmet laws please call me at 503.224.1658.  Also, if you or someone you know are injured by another while riding a bicycle, please call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658. PLEASE REMEMBER this post does not constitute legal advice.  Do not solely rely on this post.  Also, the contents of this post is based on my own personal experience, and please rely on medical professionals to advise you of the best time to put your kiddo on a bicycle.   Lastly, this post, this web-site, and this blog may be considered attorney advertisement.

The Rain Is Back-Can You Get a Ticket For Going The Posted Speed Limit in The Rain?

This week the rain has returned, and so have the numerous terrible drivers that continue to speed through the rain.   You would think that Portland Oregon drivers would be excellent drivers in the rain.  However, it appears just the opposite is true.  

Many drivers drive too fast in the rain and then cause a crash.   Many of these crashes during rush  hour are rear end collisions.   These rear end collisions often can cause soft tissue injuries to a person's neck (whiplash type injuries), back, and often the driver's left shoulder can be injured from the seat belt tightening.  Some of the crashes can be more serious resulting in significant injures.   

The "bad drivers" that cause the crash probably feel horrible for causing a crash and injuring a person.  However, they may be surprised if they get a ticket even if they were going the posted speed limit in the rain.   They also may be surprised if a personal injury lawyer like myself files a lawsuit claiming they were negligent even though they were going the posted speed limit in the rain.  

This is due to the fact that there is a "basic speed rule" in Oregon.   ORS 811.100 is a law that notes a person violates the law if they drive a vehicle at a speed greater thaan is reasonable and prudent.  The law then lists certain issues that a driver must account for in determining whether or not their speed is reasonable and prudent.  These issues include weather, traffic, visibility, and other conditions.  ORS 811.100 (4) specifically notes that a person may be given a traffic citation if their speed is lower than the posted speed limit.  

The bottom line is that you should slow down to a reasonable speed in rainy conditions.  If you don't and cause a crash you may face a traffic fine.  Even worse you may injure someone and have to answer to a Personal Injury Attorney like myself to explain why you shouldn't be held accountable for injuring another person.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an Oregon car crash, call Portland Oregon Personal Injury Attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.    Ross Law LLC provides free personal injury consultations and works on a contingency fee in personal injury cases.   Please remember the law is constantly changing and it is best to contact a personal injury ticket.

 

 

Jeremiah Ross Prevails in lawsuit against Portland RV Wholesale

I recently prevailed in a Lawsuit against another vehicle dealer on Portland's 82nd Ave.  On behalf of Ross Law, I represented a couple that purchased a motor-home from Portland RV Wholesale.   During the purchase the couple had questions about the motor-home and whether or not it would be inspected.  Portland RV wholesale's sales person informed the couple the motor home had been thoroughly inspected by Portland RV Wholesale.  

The couple later discovered the motor-home's  rear end and rear brakes were malfunctioning and needed to be replaced.  A mechanic noted it was obvious the rear end and brakes had been submerged in water for a period of time.  However, the couple never had submerged the vehicle in water, so the vehicle would have had to have been submerged in water prior to the sale.  If Portland RV would have inspected the vehicle they should have known that the vehicle was submerged and had defective rear brakes and a defective rear end.  

I relied on the Oregon Administrative Rules that apply to car dealers to show Portland RV Wholesale had engaged in unlawful trade practices.  The case was heard in court annexed arbitration.   The Arbitrator awarded also awarded my clients costs and their attorney fees under ORS 646.638.  However, this may be the beginning of a future battle. Portland RV Wholesale may request a trial de novo, and force my clients to put on the case again in front of a Jury.  Only time will tell what Portland RV Wholesale chooses to do. 

If you have been injured or ripped off, or a crime victim in Oregon please call Portland Attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  Please remember that all outcomes vary and Jeremiah Ross does not guarantee you can prevail in your lawsuit.  Also, please note that this post is about a Court Arbitration, and Portland RV Wholesale has the right to appeal the matter and request a Jury Trial.   The outcome may be different at a Jury Trial.   

OREGON’S RETAIL INSTALLMENT CONTRACT LAW

Attorneys representing clients in a case involving the purchase of a motor vehicle must carefully review the Retail Installment Contract (RIC) for statutory violations and other causes of action. The RIC is a valuable tool that can reveal  UTPA violations, Truth In Lending Act (TILA) Violations, and violations of the Oregon Administrative Rules.  Oregon Law has specific provisions that apply to every RIC in Oregon.  These statutes should be reviewed before drafting a Complaint or demand letter.

ORS 83.510(11) defines what a RIC is.  Basically the RIC is an agreement entered into in Oregon where the vehicle dealer holds the the title to the vehicle or a lien upon a motor vehicle, which is the subject matter of a retail installment sale.  Retail installment sales  make up the vast majority of vehicle sales in Oregon.

Oregon Law specifically prescribes the form and contents of the RIC.  Most consumer’s are provided the long pink piece of paper noting “Retail Installment Contract” on the heading.  ORS 83.520 notes a retail installment contract shall be in writing, shall contain all the agreements of the parties, shall contain identifying information relating to the dealer, purchaser, and vehicle.   ORS 83.520 has other statutory mandates, but the most important mandates are found in section 3.   This section is where statutory violations can be found.

ORS 83.520(3) (a) mandates the RIC to contain the “cash sale price” of the vehicle.  The “cash sale price” is defined as the price for which the vehicle dealer would sell to the consumer, and the consumer would buy from the motor vehicle dealer, if the sale were a sale for cash instead of a retail installment contract.   The “cash sale price” can include, taxes, registration, license fees and other charges for accessories and their instillation, and for vehicle improvements.

ORS 83.520(3) is very important if you are addressing a negative equity issue with the vehicle trade in.   OAR 137-020-0020(3)(aa) prohibits a negative equity adjustment when trading in a vehicle to purchase another vehicle.   The negative equity issue arises if the consumer owes more than the trade-in is worth.   (See  OAR 137-020-0020(2)(t) and (u) for a more detailed explanation of negativeequity.) OAR 137-020-0020(3)(aa) prohibits the vehicle dealer from raising the “cash sale price” of the new vehicle to offset the negative equity in the trade-in.   An unlawful negative equity violation may result in a UTPA violation, Truth In Lending Act Violation, or other violations.

ORS 83.520(3)(b) requires the RIC to note the amount of the buyer’s down payment, itemizing the amounts, if any, paid or credited in money or in goods and containing a brief description of goods traded in.   Violations of this section regularly occur when the dealer is taking in property other than a vehicle as the trade in.  I represented a client that traded in a television and video games for the vehicle down payment.  However, the dealership listed the traded in items as a $500.00 “cash down payment” on the RIC and failed to itemize the amounts given for the television and video games.  Arguably failing to comply with this section is a violation of ORS 646.608(1)(k), and ORS 646.608(1)(s).

Another often overlooked sub-section is ORS 83.520(3)(j).  That subsection mandates the RIC must include a plain and concise statement of the amount in dollars of each installment or future payment to be made by the consumer, the number of installments are required, and the date or dates which , or periods in which the installments are due.    Dealers sometimes claim to have deferred a down payment that was listed as a “cash down payment.” on the RIC.  Later the dealer asserts the consumer owes a certain amount of money for the down payment.  However there is not anything in writing noting that the down payment is owed, and the documents note that the cash down payment has been made.  This section mandates that if there are any future payments the amount and due date must be included in the RIC.  Failing to include the deferred down payment in the RIC is likely a violation of   ORS 646.608(1)(k) and  may be a violation ofOAR 137-020-0020(3)(t).

It is important to note, once the transaction is complete the dealer must deliver or mail a copy of  the RIC to the purchaser.  See ORS 83.540.   ORS 83.540 also allows for the consumer to rescind the deal in very limited circumstances.

Lastly, ORS 83.670 notes certain provisions in the RIC are unenforceable.   This section prohibits the dealer from enforcing any provision granting the dealer power of attorney or confession of judgment.  ORS 83.670 also prohibits the dealer from enforcing a provision in the RIC that allows the dealer or finance company to enter the consumers property unlawfully to repossess the vehicle .  Vehicle dealers and finance companies also cannot use any provision in the RIC to commit any illegal act to collect payments.

ORS 83.670(5) is the most important sub-section.  This section prohibits enforcement of any provision in the RIC, or any document executed in connection with the RIC, that relieves the vehicle dealer from, “liability for any legal remedies that the buyer may have had against the motor vehicle dealer under the contract.” ORS 83.670(5) As a result a waiver of rights or hold harmless agreement signed in conjunction with a RIC is unenforceable.  Attorneys handling car cases are starting to see more and more waiver of rights forms that prohibit the consumer from exercising legal rights.  Jordan Roberts wrote a fantastic blog article on the Waiver Issue that can be found by clicking here (Waiver Article).

Unfortunately, Oregon’s Vehicle Retail Installment Contract laws do not have a specific remedy provision.  However, the careful practitioner can rely on these statutes to support various legal theories and allegations.   If you find yourself involved in a case with vehicle  financing issues, it is imperative you carefully review the RIC and ORS 83.510 et seq.

Jeremiah Ross practices personal injury law and consumer law at  Ross Law LLC.

ROSS LAW FEATURED IN NEWS ARTICLE REGARDING NEGLIGENT MENTAL HEALTH CARE

Jeremiah Ross was recently featured in an Astoria Oregon Newspaper article.

The Full article is below:

Family pursues legal action over suicide

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By Derrick DePledgeThe Daily Astorian

Published:November 4, 2015 8:10AM

SUBMITTED PHOTO  A makeshift memorial under the Astoria Bridge honors Carrie Barnhart, who committed suicide in April.

SUBMITTED PHOTO

A makeshift memorial under the Astoria Bridge honors Carrie Barnhart, who committed suicide in April.

Family believes death was preventable

The family of the woman who jumped from the Astoria Bridge in April is preparing a lawsuit against Clatsop County and Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, alleging her suicide was preventable and that the county and the private mental health provider failed statutory and moral obligations to protect her from harm.

Carrie Barnhart, a 54-year-old mother of six, had chronic mental illness and committed suicide a week after Astoria Police pulled her from the bridge after midnight and took her to Columbia Memorial Hospital, where she was evaluated by Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare and released after two hours.

Astoria Police had responded to suicide threats from Barnhart four times between January and April, and her family disclosed several other instances over the previous year where she had threatened to kill herself.

In a tort claim notice filed in October, Jeremiah Ross, a Portland attorney for the Barnhart family, argues that state law imposes obligations on the county, Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare and others to protect the mentally ill from harming themselves. The notice, a precursor to a lawsuit seeking damages, was also sent to Lincoln County and Benton County, where Barnhart received mental health treatment, and the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees mental health services statewide.

“Ms. Barnhart lacked the mental capacity to protect herself from harm, and Oregon law prescribes safeguards to protect her from harming herself,” Ross wrote. “From the record, it becomes apparent adequate safeguards were not in place. People and entities were not doing their jobs.”

Deficiencies in mental heath care

The notice refers to deficiencies at Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare — many of which were documented by The Daily Astorian in August — and the fact that the county renewed a contract with the private provider to administer mental health programs despite being aware of the criticism.

Ross highlighted an April email from Scott Somers, the former county manager, who, after reading about Barnhart’s suicide, wrote to a colleague that it sounded “like another case of denying admission to someone in need. This is the consistent message we’ve been hearing.”

“CBH’s failures made Carrie Barnhart’s suicide inevitable, because Ms. Barnhart’s suicide, ‘was another case of denying admission to someone in need,’” Ross wrote in the tort claim notice.

The state Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations is conducting an investigation into Barnhart’s death. The state could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday about the status of the investigation.

Clatsop County forwarded the tort claim notice to Citycounty Insurance Services in Salem, the county’s insurance carrier. Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare is reviewing the notice with counsel and had no further comment.

Committed to improving care

In August, Sumuer Watkins, the executive director of Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, told The Daily Astorian in a written statement that the agency is committed to improving crisis-response services.

A crisis respite center being planned for Warrenton is expected to provide an alternative to jail or hospitalization, a potential safety valve that could help prevent patients like Barnhart from being released too early.

Mental health treatment is a challenge across Oregon, particularly in rural parts of the state, but Barnhart’s suicide called attention to the persistent gaps in Clatsop County, where the two major hospitals — Columbia Memorial Hospital and Providence Seaside — are not certified to provide involuntary care, custody or treatment for the mentally ill.

District Attorney Josh Marquis said in July that the county is in crisis on mental health. Astoria Police Chief Brad Johnston and several of his police officers have also been exasperated that mental health intervention too often falls to law enforcement.

Struggle with mental illness

The tort claim notice outlines Barnhart’s struggle with mental illness in greater detail than her family had previously disclosed publicly.

Barnhart, according to the notice, had been brought to Columbia Memorial Hospital and Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare’s attention in November 2014 because she was having hallucinations. She was transferred to Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis in Benton County for treatment.

The notice claims Barnhart was released in December 2014 to her family’s trailer in Toledo, in Lincoln County, but that neither Benton nor Lincoln counties provided follow-up services.

After her family brought Barnhart back to live in Astoria, she drew the attention of Astoria Police, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare in January after she cut her neck with a knife. She was transferred to Salem Hospital for care.

After two more suicide threats in January — one where Astoria Police learned she had been hearing voices telling her to jump off the Astoria Bridge and another where police found her on the bridge — she was again taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital, evaluated by Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare and transferred to Good Samaritan in Corvallis.

Barnhart was eventually discharged from the hospital and returned to her family in Astoria. Police intercepted her on the bridge one last time before she finally carried out her suicide plan in late April.

‘Cracks in the system’

While the tort claim notice foreshadows a complaint for monetary damages, Ross said the family wants answers about what happened to Barnhart.

“A lot of it is about getting answers and trying to hold some people accountable,” Ross said.

Artanya Barnhart, Barnhart’s daughter, said she wants to ensure that “this doesn’t happen to another family and that family has to go through this senseless pain.

“I just think there are cracks in the system and it needs to be fixed.”