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Spokane Lawyer Blog is where we discuss the most pressing legal issues regarding Spokane County and Washington State. These issues are completely discretionary and we post according to what our firm believes needs to be addressed in our county.

On occasion, we publish a non legal article or blog post about Spokane (i.e., the state of our local economy), and that is purely for our clients' and visitors' enjoyment.

Please note this publication (and any information contained on this website) is not legal or financial advice and it cannot be construed as such. If you require legal assistance, please contact a Spokane lawyer here.

If you would like to get our articles and information via email (as opposed of through our Spokane Lawyer Blog feed) please see our monthly newsletter "Spokane Legal" where we will email you selected articles we write or selected pertinent articles we find online.

Please see our recent entries below. Thank you.

December 7, 2010 - Things We Remember in December

  • The ratification of the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition on December 5, 1933.

  • Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, commemorates the attack on the American naval fleet by Japan, which brought the U.S. into World War II.

  • The Bill of Rights was ratified by three-fourths of the U.S. Senate on December 15, 1791.

  • The Winter Solstice on December 21 will mark the day when the Earth is tilted the farthest away from the sun. We commemorate this event, which lasts barely seconds, as the first day of winter.

  • On December 31, 1907, the very first ball was dropped in Times Square. It used 100 25-watt bulbs and weighed 700 pounds.

  • More memorable things about December

  • Hanukkah begins | December 1

  • National Brownie Day | December 8

  • National Chocolate-Covered-Anything Day | December 16

  • Christmas Day | December 25

  • Kwanzaa begins | December 26

  • New Year's Eve | December 31

May 18, 2010 - Citizenship Exam Questions and Answers (in Spanish)

1. ¿Cuál es la ley suprema de la Tierra? Respuesta: La Constitución 2. ¿Qué hace la Constitución? Respuesta: Establece el gobierno. Respuesta: Protege los derechos básicos de los estadounidenses. 3. ¿Qué significa "We the People" en la Constitución? Respuesta: El poder del gobierno viene del pueblo. (Read Article)

April 18, 2010 - Employer Liability Outside Worker's Compensation Statutes

Employers can also become liable for violating workers' rights under various federal and state laws. Employment practices liability (EPL) claims are made by employees or job applicants based on harassment, discrimination, wrongful failure to promote, wrongful termination, violation of civil rights, and failure to provide or enforce adequate and consistent company policies.Spokane Sexual Harassment

Numerous state and federal statutes have been enacted within the past forty years that prohibit certain workplace behavior. These laws have created various duties for employers that, if breached, can result in liability. Federal statutes include:

*  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 - This law prohibits discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

  1. Equal Pay Act of 1963 - This law prohibits differences in pay between women and men for substantially the same work.

  2. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) -This law prohibits discrimination by employers against any individual with respect to hiring, terminations, promotions and demotions, compensation, and the terms and conditions of employment on the basis of age when a worker is forty years old or older.

  3. Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 - This law prohibits workplace discrimination against workers with disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for workers with disabilities.

  4. Civil Rights Act of 1991- This law amends and strengthens the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 while also imposing caps on compensatory and punitive damages.

  5. Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 - This law permits employees to take an expanded period of leave without losing their jobs. It provides up to twelve weeks without pay for purposes of handling family and medical issues, including pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption.

A number of states have laws that mirror and in many cases exceed the requirements set forth in these federal statutes.

With the exception of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, all of these laws are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC receives between 75,000 and 80,000 complaints each year (EEOC, World Wide Web: http://www.eeoc.gov/). More than one-third of the complaints are for racial discrimination, about 30 percent are gender-based complaints, and the remainder of the complaints received result from other violations such as those related to age or disability.

Sexual harassment is one type of gender-based complaint. Awareness of sexual harassment issues increased significantly in the 1990s following the allegations of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings.

Sexual harassment can be broken down into two categories; quid pro quo claims and hostile environment claims. Quid pro quo in Latin means "something for something." With gender-based claims, it refers to workplace advancement or other job-related favors in return for sexual favors.

Hostile work environment claims are more common than quid pro quo claims. In a hostile environment claim, the claimant faces adversity in the job environment because of his or her gender. Some examples of activities causing a hostile environment include displaying sexually explicit photos, using inappropriate language, graphically discussing the physical characteristics of the claimant or other workers, suggestive emails and text messages, and making unwelcome physical contact.

Such activities can make the job environment so hostile that workers must quit or take actions that keep them from properly performing their jobs. Hostile work environment claims may also arise out of racial discrimination.

Today, most companies have adopted corporate policies on sexual harassment and discrimination. In fact, most insurers who write employment practices liability coverage require insureds to have formal corporate policies and training on how to prevent, report, and handle harassment and discrimination claims.

If you have questions regarding employer misconduct, please contact a Spokane lawyer here.

April 3, 2010 - Advantages and Disadvantages of Non-profit Debt Consolidation

Spokane Debt ConsolidationIf you are finding it difficult to tackle multiple debts, you can seek help of a debt relief company to consolidate your bills.

You can also enroll in a consolidation program offered by the different debt consolidation non profit companies. These companies have acquired a non profit status from the IRS and offer services at a lower cost.

How can you benefit by a debt consolidation non profit program?

A debt consolidation non profit program helps you pay your creditors on time by combining your bills into one. The program offers you the following benefits:

  • Prevents you from harassment: The consolidation company representative communicates with all your creditors on your behalf and so the creditors may not harass you with repeated collection calls.

  • A single reduced monthly payment: A representative of the company negotiates with your creditors to reduce the interest rate on your bills and also eliminate the late fees and over limit charges. You have to make a single monthly payment to the company and they will distribute the payment among all your creditors.
  • Improve your credit score: When you are unable to make your monthly debt payments, your credit score gets lowered. As soon as you start paying your creditors on time (with the help of a consolidation program), your credit score starts improving.

  • Visit accredited debt consolidation non profit websites before making a decision of who you should trust.

What are the disadvantages of a debt consolidation non profit program?
There are also some disadvantages of enrolling in a debt consolidation non profit program. These are:

  • Need sufficient money: A consolidation non profit company does not offer free services. You need sufficient money to pay for its service charges and also to make the single monthly payment for paying your creditors.

  • Get scammed: There are many fraudulent companies that may pose as non profit companies and defraud you to pay high upfront fees or scam you by not distributing the monthly payment on time among your creditors.

Hence, it is very important to find the right debt consolidation non profit company. You should ask the company to provide you a proof of its 501(c) (3) IRS status before opting for its service.

If consolidation is not even an option for you (you have no income) and the burden of carrying debt is simply too heavy, you may want to consult with a Spokane bankruptcy attorney to explore all your options before making any decisions regarding how to resettle or even discharge your debt.

Contact our office today at (509) 927-3840. for more information

March 23, 2010 - Obtaining Permanent Residency | Short Overview of Different Avenues

Spokane Immigration AttorneyA permanent resident is an alien (although I hate this term, it's embedded in the United States immigration laws and codes, and in an effort to avoid confusion, I must employ it) granted immigrant status to remain in, and travel relatively freely from, to, and within, the United States indefinitely.

An alien may become a permanent resident, if qualified, whether she has ever had a nonimmigrant visa or not (nonimmigrant visas are those visas that allow a person to come and stay in the U.S. for short periods of time, i.e., a visitor visa. On the other hand, an immigrant visa allows the immigrant to come and seek a permanent stay, i.e., a fiancee visa).

Almost always this requires that a sponsoring employer or close family member petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The sponsoring employer and/or family member is the petitioner, while the alien is the applicant. A large number of aliens may also qualify through a lottery for certain countries.

One of the main advantages of seeking residency based on family relationship is that the applicant may enjoy preference (an expedited process where the applicant is put towards the front of the line).

Once and if the preference is established, and the alien gets to the front of the line, if any, the alien must take another step to obtain permanent residence.

One way available to all aliens is to apply for an immigrant visa through a U.S. consulate in their own country, and then use the vista to enter the U.S. as a permanent resident.

If the alien is already in the U.S. and has always complied with the U.S. immigration laws, she may apply for adjustment of status to permanent residence through a USCIS office in the U.S. without ever leaving the U.S. Either way, the alien's spouse and minor children may obtain permanent residency and join him/her.

There are other avenues to permanent residency, such as for certain aliens seeking to avoid persecution (asylees or refegees) or having lived long periods in the U.S. (i.e., registry, cancellation of removal, NACARA).

For questions regarding immigration or other legal issues, please contact attorney Hector Quiroga at (509) 927-3840 or email: Hector@AbogadoSpokane.com

March 1, 2010 - Fight debt collection agencies with the help of FDCPA

If you are unable to pay your bills and wish to settle them, you can use the debt settlement law to help you fight collection agencies. When settling your bills with collection agencies, you may be harassed with unfair collection efforts.

In such cases, you can protect yourself with the help of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.

What Is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provide guidelines for all those who collect debts on a regular basis including the collection agencies, collection attorneys and also the companies that buy delinquent debts.

The provisions of the FDCPA are considered as the debt settlement law in the U.S. Such provisions can protect you from being abused by collectors.

By knowing the following restrictions imposed by FDCPA on collectors, you can protect yourself from their harassment.

  • Should not harass others: Apart from the co-signer of your debt, the collectors cannot harass any of your friends, relatives, neighbors etc. They should also not disclose to them your inability to repay the debt on time.
  • Should not use abusive languages and threats: The collectors are not allowed to call at inconvenient places. They should not contact you before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. The debt collectors should also not use any profane language or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally.

  • Should not threaten you of arrest or use false claims: The collectors are prohibited from saying that you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt. Using false claims while trying to collect a debt, such as pretending to be lawyers or government representatives, is prevented under the FDCPA.

If the law is violated by the collectors, you have the right to sue them in a federal or state court. The FDCPA also provides a Statute of Limitations (SOL) for collection of debts. It lays down the time limit within which creditors/collectors can file a lawsuit to make you pay for a debt. If your debt account crosses the SOL, you will not have to worry about facing legal hassles.

Some debt settlement companies can also help you stop aggressive collectors.

If you have questions about Spokane Bankruptcy or dealing with harassing creditors, please contact the Quiroga Law Office, PLLC, at 509-927-3840.

February 23, 2010 - Bankruptcy and Immigration Status

The law allows several options for people who are experiencing economic hardship. For example, residents can seek financial protection under Chapter 7 and/or Chapter 13 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. However, bankruptcy can have a substantial impact immigrants and on those who are seeking adjustment of their status.

A bankruptcy filing can erase credit card debt, fines, and sometimes save your home from foreclosure (among other legal actions). However, it is very important that you check the impact this filing would have on your immigration status. It is critical that you understand the potential consequences for your specific situation. Spokane Immigration

The United States Government's public policy is not to allow residents and immigrants to become a "public charge." Therefore, there are several laws that specifically prohibit residents (with or without documents) to receive benefits such as food assistance (Food Stamps). Only U.S. citizens may qualify for this benefit.

The "public charge" concept is very important as it can have a  significant impact on your immigration status. If you file for bankruptcy, the government can consider you as a "public charge." This problem is much more serious if you owe money to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Some debts with the federal government can be totally discharged through the bankruptcy process, however, this filing can create serious problems for you with the Department of Home Land Security.

It is imperative that you contact a qualified attorney in the immigration area, before filing, to understand the impact a bankruptcy may have on your immigration status.

Financial problems can be used as explained and may not necessarily disqualify a resident or citizen for benefits under immigration law. It is important to show that you are not, and will not, become a public charge. If you have tax debt, it will be necessary to establish some kind of verifiable arrangement to pay the IRS and mitigate the potential damage on your immigration case.

A foreclosure may also be evidence against you, depending on totality of the circumstances of your case.

Remember, not every financial problem may affect your immigration status, however,  some problems of this nature can have a substantial negative impact.

If you have questions about foreclosure, bankruptcy, or have immigration questions, you can contact us here.

August 25, 2009 - Spokane Landlord Tenant Law

Spokane landlord tenant law is governed in large by the Residential Landlord Tenant act as codified in title 59 of the Revised Code of Washington.

From a brief overview of the RCW and court decisions, we deduct that a leasehold estate is a present estate established by a contract (i.e., a lease) between a landlord (also referred to as a lessor) and tenant (also referred to as a lessee) which grants property rights to a tenant.

In the contract, the tenant receives a temporary possessory interest in land known as a leasehold estate.

Types of Tenancies (leases)- Spokane landlord tenant law allows for leasehold estates but divides them according to the duration of the lease. Spokane Landlord Tenant Law

Tenancy for years: a tenancy for years is a tenancy that:

   A. lasts for a period of time specified in the lease (i.e., days, months or years); and

Comment- Although a fixed period of time is stated, a tenancy for years may be terminated upon the occurrence of a specified event (e.g., failure to pay rent).

   B. terminates automatically at the end of the specified period of time. That is, unless the lease specifies otherwise, at the end of the fixed period a landlord is not required to give notice to the tenant that the tenant's rights in the land have expired. Similarly, a tenant is not required to give a landlord notice of termination.

Periodic tenancy- a periodic tenancy is a tenancy that has the following characteristics:

      A. The tenancy continues for a period of fixed duration;

      B.  Succeeding periods of the same duration follow until the landlord or tenant give notice (to the other party) that the tenancy should end;

      C. Notice of termination must be given greater than one period prior to the termination date. The result of notice is that termination of the tenancy occurs on the last day of the period following notice. This requirement may or may not apply to Spokane landlord tenant law disputes (the written lease controls).

Example- Otto enters into a one-month periodic tenancy and moves into an apartment on January 1, 2008. In order to terminate the tenancy on November 30, 2008 Otto must give notice prior to October 31, 2008.

Comment- Periodic tenancy is the "default tenancy." That is, if a lease purporting to be tenancy for years fails to specify a period of time, the tenancy is assumed to be a periodic tenancy. Similarly, if a tenancy at will fails to state that a landlord or tenant can terminate the lease, a periodic tenancy is created. The period of the failed tenancy is equal to the period of time which rent is paid.

Tenancy at will- a tenancy at will is a tenancy that:
    A.  has no stated period of duration, and
    B.  expressly provides that either the landlord or tenant may terminate the lease at any time (i.e., at will)

At common law, tenancies at will can be terminated at any time; some state statutes require that notice be given by a landlord or tenant a specified period in advance of termination.

Tenancy at Sufferance- a holdover tenant is a tenant at sufferance. A holdover tenant is a tenant who stays beyond the fixed duration of a tenancy for years or a periodic tenancy. A holdover tenant is liable as a trespasser.

If you would like to contact an attorney with knowledge of Spokane landlord tenant law, please contact our office at 509-927-3840.


Quiroga Law Office, PLLC | Copyright Spokane Landlord Tenant Law

August 13, 2009 - Washington Intentional Civil Liability

Washington intentional civil liability overview: An intentional tort results from voluntary action that is made with an intent to bring about a harmful result. Intent requires a determination of the state of mind of the defendant at the time of the action-in-question (subjective intent). Spokane Civil Liability

Comment- Don't be confused by the fact that many intentional torts, which are civil law violations, have corresponding criminal violations.
For example, there is civil battery and there is criminal battery. Also, remember that a civil infraction results in an award of damages to a plaintiff, whereas a criminal infraction may result in imprisonment of the defendant.

A. Washington Intentional Civil Liability: Types of intentional torts:

  • 1. Assault- civil assault is an attempted physical harm, or intentional threat of physical harm, that places a plaintiff in reasonable apprehension that immediate physical harm is about to occur to him. No physical contact needs to occur for a defendant to be held liable for assault.

  • 2. Battery- civil battery is an intentional harmful or offensive contact with a plaintiff causing injury.

  • 3. False imprisonment- false imprisonment is an intentional unlawful confinement of a plaintiff in a bounded area. Comment- Most jurisdictions allow shopkeepers to hold suspected shoplifters for a period long enough to determine if shoplifting has occurred or until police arrive.

  • 4. Infliction of Emotional Harm- intentional infliction of emotional harm results from intentional or reckless outrageous behavior that results in extreme emotional harm to the plaintiff. Note, in Washington, courts and books refer to this tort as the tort of outrage.

    Example- Eddie calls June and tells her, in graphic detail, that her son, Theodore, has been murdered. In fact, Theodore has not been murdered and Eddie has only done this to torment June. June suffers from nightmares and depression for months. Eddie will be liable for intentional infliction of emotional harm.

B. Washington Intentional Civil Liability Defenses to intentional torts include- a defendant accused of committing an intentional tort has a number of legally recognized defenses, including:

  • 1. Consent- a plaintiff who consented to the defendant’s activity cannot sue for damages. Consent can be express or implied.

  • I. Express consent- verbal (i.e., written or oral) communication of words granting permission for the conduct that caused the intentional tort.
    II. Implied consent- permission granted using other than verbal communication.

    Example- Mia participates in a soccer game knowing the amount of physical contact expected during a soccer game. Mia has implicitly consented to contact that is reasonable during a soccer game.

  • 2. Defense of person or property- a defendant may not be held liable for damage resulting from an intentional tort if the damage was caused in defense of himself or another or if the damage resulted from defense of property.
    Spokane Self defense

    Defense of self or a third party- a person is entitled to defend himself or others through the use of force reasonably necessary to defend himself or another. Deadly force may be used only when the assailant reasonably appears to be using or about to use deadly force.

    Comment- Some jurisdictions require that before deadly force can be used in self-defense, the person claiming self-defense must attempt to retreat from the assailant. Typically, one is not required to retreat from their own home before using deadly force.

    Defense of property- defense of property allows use of force reasonably necessary to defend one’s property. Deadly force may never be used to defend property.

  • 3. Arrest- a police officer will not be held liable for battery if during the course of executing his duties, he uses reasonable force to make an arrest of and individual whom he reasonably believes committed, or was about to commit, a crime.

The next post will explain Washingtion civil liability for defamation and violation of privacy torts.

If you have a Washington intentional civil liability claim, please contact us now!

June 25, 2009 - Civil Offenses that are strict liability in Washington

Strict liability in Washington: certain civil offenses (as opposed of criminal) amount to liability even if the defendant acts as a reasonable person and she does everything on her power to avoid harm. There are two categories that give strict liability in Washington.

I. Wild animals in Spokane- a defendant (owner and possibly a harborer) is liable for all injury or damage caused by wild animals kept by the defendant, regardless of what measures are taken to prevent damage (i.e., no breach of the duty of reasonable care need be found). Wild animals in Spokane

This is a strict liability offense (the plaintiff does not need to show negligence). Please, note, "a wild animal" is not a domesticated animal, and some defendants could argue that their "pet" was domesticated.

Example- Mr. Tarzan, living in downtown Spokane, keeps a pet cheetah. Mr. Tarzan keeps the cheetah behind a state-of-the-art electrified fence. During a hurricane the fence is destroyed and the cheetah escapes and kills three people. Mr. Tarzan is liable for the deaths, regardless of whether he is found to have acted negligently.
Comment- Defendants who keep domestic animals (e.g., dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.) are not strictly liable for damage caused by the animal (i.e., they must be found to have acted negligently, before the defendant will be held liable for damage caused by the animal). Therefore, negligence law analysis should be used to determine liability for damage caused by domestic animals.

Example- Gumby keeps a pet horse named Pokey. Although Pokey is kept in a wooden pen, Pokey escapes and tramples the neighbor's garden. In order for Gumby to be held liable, a court must first determine whether Gumby was negligent by keeping him in a wooden pen.

II. Extremely Hazardous Activity- a defendant is found strictly liable in Washington for all injury or damage caused by extremely hazardous activity, regardless of what measures are taken to prevent damage (i.e., no breach of the duty of reasonable care need be found). Extremely hazardous activities are defined as activities having:Spokane Fire

  • a high risk of severe damage, and
  • a risk of danger that cannot be removed regardless of the precautionary measures taken, and
  • a risk that is unusual for the area in which it is located.
Example- Joe Acme stores dynamite in his basement in a climate controlled room. Acme's house is located in a residential neighborhood. Lightning strikes Acme's house causing an explosion of the dynamite, which causes serious damage to his neighbors' houses. Despite the precautions taken by Acme, he is liable for all damages caused by the explosion.

If you have questions or need legal advice, please contact the Quiroga Law Office here.

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