Back nearly to the trailhead on my hike to Upper Diamond Lake on the 1st of September, I slipped and fell. It was a fairly hard fall, forward. Going down, I landed left knee, left hand, right hand, and left shoulder, in that order, before I came to a rest. The bruise on my shoulder took over three weeks to fade, the swelling just above my left knee was gone after a few days, and there was no bruise. The heel of my right hand was slightly bruised; tender for a week or so.
My left hand took the brunt. The heel was badly swollen, and it took on a tinge of yellow bruising. Pinky, ring finger, and middle finger were swollen and stiff. The pinky moved okay, so I thought I didn’t break it. The swelling in the middle and ring fingers slowly subsided and the soreness went away, but the pinky wasn’t getting much better.
After three weeks, I called the doctor. Earliest appointment was five days out.
The doctor I’ve been seeing for fifteen years retired and I’ve only been to this doctor twice.
He looked at it, pressed gently here and there. I showed him the range of motion, talked about the level of pain.
“Do you want me to take an x-ray? X-rays are expensive.”
“Do I need an x-ray?”
“It won’t change my advice to you. I’ll send you to an orthopedic doctor. You should put the finger in a splint.”
It’s five more days before I can get in.
The doctor is Dan, and he has his assistant Ann taking the notes. The first thing Dr. Dan asks is, “Why do you have a splint on it?”
“Because Juenemann told me to.” Clearly, this is a topic for further discussion next time I see him.
They take some pictures. The pinky is broken, and it’s pretty much already healed and everything is in the right place. When discussing how many times he’d need to see me, I couldn’t resist using my standard joke about doctors and boat payments. “Just kidding!” I said. It was not well received. A minute later, I felt compelled to pile on, and suggest instead of a boat, it was a Porsche. “Just kidding!” On the way out of the exam room, I couldn’t help but see a big picture of a guy on a racing kart. Not Dr. Dan.
“I’ll send you the the therapist upstairs.” That’s seven days later.
I’ve done physical therapy twice now, with one more scheduled. Each visit starts him measuring my range of motion with a sort of protractor. Then I put my hand in a bag of molten paraffin. It was hot not quite to the point of pain. He massaged my hand for a while and when I took my hand out of the bag, it came out clean. I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with the stuff, but I found it … unexpected. Next, he massaged the finger some more, without the unexpected paraffin, but with the expected lotion.
He gave me half a dozen exercises to do, five sets of ten each day. On the first visit, I got a yellow sponge to squeeze. He also gave me some compression tape to work on the swelling, but didn’t tell me when or how often to use it. I did it overnight because I was exercising the thing all day.
The second visit to the doctor, I saw Val rather than Dr. Dan. I told her my therapy regimen.”You really need to keep moving it. Don’t use the compression tape. And I’m concerned with its movement this way.
At the second therapy session, I mention Val’s concern about its movement this way. The swelling needs to go down further, he says. He measures my movement. I’ve improved everywhere, all is good.
“Did I give you a yellow sponge last time?”
“Yes, you did.”
“You get a pink one this time.” And he showed me a couple of different ways I should be squeezing it.
Then I get my first bill for the therapy.
Evidently, my health insurance company doesn’t think my pinky has anything to do with my health. The first therapy session, less than an hour, will cost me $553. Insurance covers none if it. There’s no discount. At the next therapy session, I’ll ask for another sponge and decline to make any further appointments.
The finger is much improved. Range of motion is getting better faster now than it was.
Runing through the exercies with the therapist, the exercises made sense to me: a systematic flexing of all the muscles in the finger. Left to my own devices, had I never had the therapy sessions, I’d have exercised the finger. But I’d have missed half of them and I’m pretty sure I’d not have done them as often as recommended. Would it have ever healed properly?
That insurance doesn’t cover therapy for a broken finger boggles my mind. “Your finger isn’t worth a plug nickel to us. We’re not paying for it.” Our healthcare system is badly broken.
I’m trying to recall whether I’ve visited the Botanic Gardens before. I was there a few years ago for a concert, but I didn’t wander the grounds. I’m thinking I must have been there on a field trip back in elementary school, but I really don’t recall. So, for all intents and purposes, this is my first visit.
I certainly should have taken the real camera but figured all I’d do is take a bunch of pictures of plants I couldn’t identify if my life depended on it and that I’d never really look at again. So I left the SLR at home. And ended up taking a bunch of pictures of plants I can’t identify.
I will share them here for no more reason than because they’re pretty flowers. I don’t know anything about bees, but it looks like there are several different species buzzing around the place.
Over the last decade or more, it has been my habit (or goal) to spend fifteen to eighteen days a year wandering through Rocky Mountain National Park. It appears, at this point at least, that I won’t make a great effort towards that goal in 2021.
First, in the time since I first started backpacking (as opposed to day hiking), my approach has been to visit the permit office in person when making reservations. My thinking is that I’ll get better results than by email. I go in with a list of specific camp sites and vague dates. “What dates do you have available for Upper Ouzel Creek,” for example. Given a short list of desired sites and a bit of flexibility on dates, I have been able to secure my desired permits.
This year, however, due to the knock-on effects of the COVID pandemic, the office is closed to in-person visits. And, to complicate matters, they had technical issues that caused several delays in getting the online process functioning. The bottom line is they stopped accepting requests before I even knew they started. I should have been paying closer attention.
But, in the end, I don’t think my failure to act promptly was as big of a problem as I first thought. When I was trying to figure out what they’re doing with the timed entry passes, I found their map of area closures:
It looks to me like about a quarter of the Park is closed. The yellow shaded areas on the map are the closures. This area is not the same as what was burned last summer: I’m pretty sure the campsite we camped at last summer did not get burned, but because the lower sections of the trail were burned, anything above the burned area is closed.
So, on the west side of the park, the only trails available are those west of the Colorado River and the trails to Timber Lake and Mount Ida. On the east side, everything around Fern Lake is closed.
The timed entry passes this season are a bit different from last year. Last year, you needed a pass to go anywhere in the Park. I’m not sure that this applied to Wild Basin, as on my visits there last year I never saw any rangers at the entrance station. This year, the greatest restrictions are on the Bear Lake area. A pass is required starting at 5 am. The rest of the Park is generally open before 9 am, so no pass would be required for an early start on a hike to, say, Lawn Lake.
I picked up a July pass for the Bear Lake area. I’m thinking I’ll visit Andrews Glacier, which I haven’t done in at least fifteen years. After that, I’m not sure where I want to go.
So all this leads me to start looking for hiking opportunities outside RMNP. Luckily, there is no shortage of choices. It’s a great excuse to see the beauty of Colorado outside my normal stomping grounds.
My original intention was to post this to the blog as soon as we’d arrived at the conclusion. However, the conclusion put me in a bit of a funk and I didn’t want to deal with it. That’s been several weeks, now, and I finally am ready to record it.
I had also intended to take my rough notes and work them into something presentable. Instead, I’ve only made a few spelling, punctuation, and word choice changes. I also added a few minor editorial notes (in italics) to clarify things in the narrative that I only learned later.
Monday, August 3
A bit before 3pm, we were in the left turn lane from westbound 92nd to southbound Harlan. It’s a double left turn. We’re in the right lane, first of four or five cars. A bus goes through the intersection southbound, making a right at the light (to stay on Harlan). Just before we get the green arrow, a white Toyota pickup with black trim pulls up in the left left turn lane.
We get the green arrow. He gets almost a car’s length ahead of me then comes across into my lane, because he doesn’t want to go straight, he wants to stay on Harlan. The bus is just making the right turn and going slow, but still going. The Toyota has to slow way down to not hit the bus. I hit the brakes and the horn at the same time. The bus is still moving, but slow. The Toyota comes to a complete stop and I tap him.
We pull over into the Conoco station. Not into it, but into that driveway. We both get out of our cars. He lets loose a torrent of abuse, I can’t get a word in edgewise. He calls me a “blind, old man.” We walk toward each other, meeting about half-way. We end up close together, not quite face-to-face. He tells me to get out of his face, or he’ll fuck me up.
I now have what I can best describe as if being in a dream: a few seconds of experience, not connected to anything: I am the ground, wondering “What am I doing on the ground?”
Another bit of dream-land; a few moments of time not connected to any other experience: I look down into my left palm, which is filling up with blood from my nose. It’s not dripping, it’s a stream. I move towards the curb and grass, and blood is still pouring out of my nose, drenching my shoes. I sit down with my back against a tree.
The next discontinuity is more subtle: I’m still sitting against the tree. I am subsequently told about ten minutes have passed. I have a huge wad of bloody kleenex in my hands, my nose is still bleeding. A cop gives me a pellet to stuff into my nostril and a spring clamp for my nose. My shirt only has a few splatters; my shorts are clean. My shoes belong on a murder victim.
Evidently, the EMTs have come and gone. I don’t remember them. Genae tells me they asked if I was on any blood thinners. Genae said she wanted to mention the low-dose aspirin. Which means I didn’t. I’m told that I was saying he never touched me; I was saying that I wasn’t punched.
I only later find out the proper sequence of events. Genae tells me that the cop who gave me the things for my nose was before the EMTs. So I’m missing some time between the river of blood and the cop, then a much bigger chunk. I’ve been “Swiss-cheesed”.
Somebody getting gas shot a video, which starts a split second before the punch lands and goes for about ten seconds. The guy texted it to me. It’s a distant shot, so not much detail. He hits me and I go down like a sack of potatoes. I land on my ass, and perhaps the back of my head hits the bumper of the car. It’s not a good angle. Then I get up, move towards the curb and fall to my hands, but not my knees. I’m not sure whether I’m staggering, or just picking up my sunglasses. I put my sunglasses on and get in the car, then immediately get back out. I’m amazed there’s no blood in the car. I must not have started bleeding until I got back out. I’m guessing I remember the bloody five or six seconds immediately after the end of the video.
I don’t recall the EMTs, but there were still several cops there when I my own memory resumes. One asked if I want to press charges. I told him I hadn’t been punched since junior high school. Of course I’d press charges. The guy hadn’t even left the parking lot. He admitted punching me.
Based on the missing ten minutes, it’s pretty clear I got concussed. I have no tenderness on the back of my head, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t hit my head on the car. Presumably the EMTs checked me for dilated eyes. I have a very minor headache right now, but it could be just from a generally bad day.
Sitting on the pine needles, leaning against the tree, I was more dazed than hurt. I really had no pain at all, so I’m guessing a bit of shock. Genae offered me some water. I swirled it around my mouth and spit it out. There was a little blood; a second rinse of the mouth was clean. I have no cut in my mouth, but a small abrasion on the inside of my left cheek from my upper teeth.
After the police and EMTs were done, Genae drove us home. As we pulled into our cul-de-sac she told me “I think he followed us.” I told her there are a million white pickup trucks and she shouldn’t worry about it. When I got the police report, I couldn’t help but notice that the guy lives just a few houses away. I can throw a snowball from my backyard to his.
There was no swelling until more than an hour later. I should have been quicker getting ice on it, but never occurred to me. Genae put an icepack together for me and I used it until it was mostly melted. When I was about to fire up the grill for dinner I blew my nose. The bleeding started back up. Not too badly; only used a couple of kleenex. I write this, at 10:30, it’s only starting to show some discoloration. I’m expecting it to get much uglier. I can cover the swollen part of my cheek with my fist. That is, it’s obvious where his fist came into contact with my face.
My teeth and gums, upper left, are numb, as if I’d had Novocaine.
Approaching 1am, I haven’t slept yet. My mind won’t rest. I’ve made a few updates to this document.
I finally sleep at two, but wake up a few minutes after six.
Tuesday, August 4
I certainly didn’t feel like walking this morning.
A quarter of my mouth is still numb, still as numb as was last night. I was able to get an appointment to see the dentist at 10am. Pulchalski has retired and we haven’t looked for a new dentist, so I called his old practice. Got an appointment with a guy I’d never met before, a young guy.
Of course, both the assistant and the doctor asked what happened, so I told the story briefly. They took three x-rays, two of which they had to do twice. X-rays look good. Next was a visual inspection, then prodding me with a sharp tool: I could feel some pressure but no pain around three teeth, a bit more sensation on the others. No problems opening wide for him, which he noted. Had I taken the blow on the jawbone, it could have been serious. Likewise, had it been around my eye.
I had him write up a little note. I don’t know if I’ll need it, or something like it, but I want to get what documentation I can. The prognosis is good: the nerve is being affected by the swelling. Once the swelling goes down, in all likelihood, there is no permanent damage. The treatment plan is to take 1 or 2 Ibuprofen every four hours and do three twenty minute sessions with an ice pack.
I sat watching Danger Man with the ice pack. For one episode, I had it where I had it yesterday afternoon. It was mostly affecting the cheek, I don’t think it was doing much for the gums. For the next episode, I managed to contort my face to get the ice in a more effective place. I think the feeling is coming back a bit, starting at the back. The Dentist said I may experience a burning sensation or it may feel prickly, which isn’t unusual. So far, none of that.
He wants me back next week for a follow up.
Wednesday, August 5
I slept better last night, fell asleep about 10:30, but woke up before six.
I called the Westminster Police Department today wanting to talk to somebody about my case. I didn’t get to talk to any of the officers involved as none of them starts work until two. The first person I get to talk to just directs phone calls. I gave her my report number and she said, “Oh yes, I remember that one. How are you?”
I understand that a Detective Hard will be dealing with the case, or perhaps Officer Burgess, or perhaps both.
I wanted to make sure that they knew what happened leading up to the assault. I was told that they have it all. As I don’t recall talking to any police officers, I don’t know if they got the story from me. So I asked if they knew that “the other party” intentionally caused the collision. She said that, yes, they knew.
I left a message for Detective Hard and hope to hear back from her.
I also called Allstate. Paul wasn’t in the office, so I left a message and hope to hear back from him.
Later… Paul returned my call. We had a long conversation. He recommends, even if I don’t make the repair, that I open a claim and get an estimate. Due to the unique situation (he’s never dealt with road rage that turned into an assault), he’s making a couple of calls to experts/consultants on his end to verify the best course of action. He recommended that I start a claim.
Later… Detective Hard called. She tells me that the miscreant was cited for battery (a misdemeanor) and for having no proof of insurance. He was not cited for the traffic incident. Detective Hard was the officer who was parked nearby. She said she’d have a victim advocate reach out to me. She also told me that if I find out I have any broken bones I should contact her, as that will change the charges.
Reading that last sentence now, months later, causes me much discomfort. She told me what to do, I made a note of it, and I promptly… forgot. Had I remember this, subsequent events may have turned out much different.
Shortly thereafter… A woman called from the victim advocate’s office. She’s not the one I’ll be dealing with; someone will call me tomorrow and that person will be my contact through the whole process. The miscreant’s court date is 8/27. I don’t need to attend court, but I think I will. Which means I’ll miss out on my timed entry pass for RMNP on that date. Oh well.
In any event, I should be eligible for some restitution. Most likely, this will only cover the dental visits. I need to explain the precipitating event to the judge in the hopes that we can get the miscreant to tell his insurance that he was at fault. This way I can get the car fixed. I can’t justify paying $600 to fix this small cosmetic issue, but I know that every time I see it, I’ll be reminded of the battery.
I called Allstate and started a claim. I download an app and use that. I’ll take photos and they give me an estimate from that.
About this time, I ran into a couple of my neighbors. Naturally, they asked about my injuries. I went through the story. One said, “The guy in the white pickup? He’s got problems!” We live across the street from an elementary school. One day, somebody decided to turn around using Supitar’s driveway. He was outside at the time and threatened the driver with violence. For turning around using his driveway. Clearly, I live a couple of houses away from a sociopath.
Friday, August 14
I had a 10:30 appointment to get a 3-D image of my mouth. North Washington Dental doesn’t have the equipment, so they sent me to Standley Lake Dental Group. I wanted to be there fifteen minutes early to fill out all the paperwork. There was nobody in the lobby when I arrived. Fill out the COVID screening form, get your temperature taken (“I’ve been in the sun: I drove a convertable”), take a seat. I grabbed the one farthest from both the reception desk and the entrance. Another patient arrives and is called back before I get called.
The imaging machine takes a 360 degree view. The last one of these I saw, you sat down for the scan. This one I stood up. Bite on the blue piece. The operator adjusts the fit then takes a preview shot. The full scan takes about thirty seconds.
I have a broken bone in my face. We discuss the nerve and swelling and sensation. He does the cold test next. He’s surprised how many teeth are numb.
He recommends I see an oral surgeon. He can recommend one, or I can have Harger from North Washington make a recommendation. Harger doesn’t work Fridays, so I get the referral from this guy. I now have a 1:10 appointment in south Lakewood. It’s 11:45. I’m billed $200 and given a DVD with the CBCT scan, and a referral slip. I ask them if my dentist will be able to view the disk. “Of course!”
I made a quick trip home. I didn’t have time for lunch so I snacked on a few grapes.
At the oral surgeon’s, the door is locked. A sign says to call for a screening. They ask the usual questions, then someone comes out and takes your temperature (“Convertible!”). You sign the form with the answers from the phone interview and go in. They take me directly to an exam room. The gal takes the DVD and leaves the room. Comes back a few minutes later. “They didn’t include the viewer on the DVD, so we can’t read it. We’ll do the scan again but won’t charge you for it.”
They take me to their scanning room. They have two machines there: one like the one I used this morning, and one like I used years ago. (“Used” doesn’t seem like the right word. “Used on me”?) They sat me down on the older one and did the scan.
Yup, I have a broken bone in my face. It’s a very delicate bone. She said any attempt to put a plate in would just make the numbness worse. It’ll heal on its own. She described the bone the way you would describe a crash structure on a car without using that term. I have a bunch of fluid in my sinus. It’s blood, and it’s not infected. I’m not to blow my nose, as that could move the broken bone and might cause an infection. I should refrain from nose blowing for three weeks.
As to the numbness, the nerve looks good. That is, it’s intact. There’s a small chance that the numbness won’t get any better, but in all likelihood I’ll be okay. It’ll take months to get my sensation back. I tried to get her to give me some idea of what a “small chance” is. One out of twenty? She refused to answer.
“Is the little green convertible yours? I could get into a lot of trouble in that!”
They escort me out the “back door”. It’s not a back door; it comes out on the same side as the door where I entered, just down a bit.
I spent much of the rest of the afternoon doing paperwork. I filled out the Crime Victim Compensation Application and the Victim Impact Statement. Each requires that I attach copies of my bills.
The bruising is almost gone.
I picked an attorney at Findlaw and asked for a consultation.
In the end, I reached out to three or four attorneys. None ever responded. Most people are surprised that no one was interested. They feel from the TV ads that lawyers will be happy to take such a case. Evidently, they feel there’s no money to be made from mine, and it’s not even worth the bother to spend a minute talking to me.
One good thing about having to wear a mask at this time due to COVID is that my bruises are covered by the mask. I don’t wear my mask when I’m hiking, and on one of those days, a little kid looked at me while I was at the trailhead. He seemed to be fairly repulsed by my face.
I opened a claim with Allstate and I’ve already been paid $68 and change. Their estimate for the damages is $668, so after the deductible that leaves me $68 bucks.
Novak managed to figure out that the other guy has USAA Insurance. (“There’s your military training.”) He tells me I should call them and open a claim. Gave me the phone number and the first couple of prompts I’ll hear when I call. So I called and opened a claim. I passed that claim number back to Allstate.
I have no idea how this will all work out.
Talking to USAA, I mentioned that I’d also been assaulted by their member. The gal mentioned she’d handled a claim where their member was shot. I told her I was happy their member didn’t shoot me.
First Court Date, August 27
The documents I received from Westminster include Supitar’s court summons. His appearance was scheduled for 8:30am on Thursday, August 27.
I had a timed entry pass for the Park on that day. I’d really rather be hiking than dealing with this. For a long time, I considered just going hiking. The night before, I packed my lunch, put my boots in the car, and put the top on the car for an early exit. I was planning on visiting Keplinger Lake.
But I couldn’t sleep. The guy concussed me, broke a bone in my face, and I might have permanent nerve damage. I need to state my case. I tossed and turned until some time after 1am.
So I didn’t go hiking. I called the court clerk to find out if court would be held in-person or remotely. I was told that the time of his case was changed to 10:30 and that the hearing would be by phone. They would call me when it started, but it may not start promptly.
It did start fairly promptly. I was called by a clerk and told to put my phone on mute. I would speak only if the judge requested. In addition to the judge and my silent self, Supitar and his attorney were on the phone. When the judge asked if they were on the same call or on different phones, the attorney said, “He’s standing here next to me.” The attorney’s name was Mayberry and I gather he’s a public defender. This turns out to be incorrect. Supitar makes too much money to be granted a public defender.
The call went very quickly. The attorney asked for time for discovery and a new court date. After some back-and-forth regarding dates, it was agreed that he would be in court (in person, if all goes to plan) for a hearing on September 29 at 10:30am.
I never said a word.
I’m tired and I’m feeling somewhat depressed. It has been nearly a month and I can’t seem to go more than a short while without thinking about what happened that day. I guess it doesn’t help that the numbness in my mouth is a constant reminder. (I want to say that I’m regaining sensation, but I can’t be sure. I’m certainly becoming accustomed to the numbness and for the most part now the only time it bothers me is when I’m brushing my teeth.)
October 1 Update (2nd hearing)
Supitar’s second court date was two days ago, September 29th. That morning, I called the court clerk’s office to verify that the time and date hadn’t changed. Bob offered to go with me, but when I called the court, they told me that only people with business could attend. So I was on my own.
I went to the courthouse. Supitar was already there, sitting in his truck, waiting, I guess, for his attorney. I went in. At the security station, I told them I was there for his hearing and that I am the victim. They asked who I was working with. I’m not working with anybody, nobody has told me how any of this works or what my role is. They directed me to take a seat in the lobby and they’d find somebody to help me.
A few minutes later, Supitar came in with his attorney. The security station was mostly out of my sight, but I saw him enter the door and heard him give his name to security. One of the security officers came to me and escorted me to a locked room so that we wouldn’t be in the same room. He again said someone would be with me soon.
The room I was in had two doors, the one I came in through and another that led to a hearing room. After a few minutes, I heard voices in the hearing room. Supitar and his attorney were in there. The door has a small window, but I didn’t put my face into it, and I couldn’t hear what was being said.
Eventually, a woman came into the room. The hearing room was now empty. Whatever had happened in there was all over now.
The woman introduced herself as Lana, victim advocate. She asked me if I’d received any communication from the victim advocate. I told her I had, that I’d sent in my medical bills and victim impact statement. I told her I didn’t remember the name of who I was dealing with. She left and returned a few minutes later.
[I got a letter a week or so ago saying that I needed further documentation on my medical bills because they weren’t the same day as the crime. I called both dentists’ offices asking for them to send me a note indicating that the services were, indeed, related to the crime. Neither sent me anything. I called Standley Shores Dental and asked again. Got a bit of a runaround. Eventually, it was decided that I’d run over to their office and pick up a copy of the clinical notes. The notes, do, indeed, include my statement that the numbness was a result of being punched.]
Lana and I talked for quite a while. My main point was that because there’s no statement from me on the police report (and I lost 10 minutes of memory), I’m pretty sure I never made any statement to the police. And the prosecutor hasn’t reached out to me. So nobody has heard my story. And I think it’s important to tell my story. So I told it to her. She made a bunch of notes.
She also told me that he has a new court date: November 3 at 9:00 am. The defense has made an offer: 6 month deferred judgment with anger management. She asked if that was okay with me. We then discussed my medical bills and the situation with insurance. (I told her that because he’s not talking to either insurance company, I’d likely have to take him to small claims court.) I asked her who pays restitution – the perpetrator, or some fund. I said that it would be more just for him to pay my medical bills than if it comes from somewhere else. In the end, I said I was okay with 6 months deferred judgment as long as I get my medical bills paid and he tells his insurance company that he was at fault for the collision. In retrospect, I wasn’t really prepared to answer this question. I should have said I was not okay with that, but now I’m pretty sure it didn’t matter what I said.
We discussed his proximity to me. She recommended I get a security camera and motion activated lights.
In an email, she requested copies of my medical bills and the victim impact statement. I sent these, along with the photo I took in the dentist’s office of the imaging showing my broken bone. She said, “I want to see if the prosecutor is willing to give a harsher offer because he is not aware of the physical damages that happened to you.”
At times, I think I’m starting to get over this. I spent a Thursday evening at HPR and didn’t think about it once for four hours. On my backpacking trip last weekend, I rarely thought about it, which is a big contrast to my previous hike up Hunters Creek where I basically obsessed over it all day.
On the other hand, I’m still quite irritable. I snapped at Genae the other night.
The numbness in my mouth is nearly gone. Perhaps in a couple more weeks it will be a memory.
With each court date, I hope there will be some sort of resolution, that I’ll get some feeling of completion or see an ending. Each time, there’s another court date, another month to wait.
Meanwhile, on the insurance front, Allstate is still attempting to enter into the subrogation process with USAA.
Update from Allstate:
Dear DAVID M AND GENAE HILL
As you may recall, when we negotiated with the other insurance company involved in this claim to reimburse your deductible, those negotiations were unsuccessful. As a result, we agreed with the other insurer to submit the claim to an intercompany arbitration panel.
We have received the arbitration panel’s decision and, unfortunately, it was not in our favor. Because the decision is final and binding between Allstate Insurance Company and the other insurance company, we will no longer continue our collection efforts.
While this ruling brings our recovery efforts to an end, you may continue to seek reimbursement of your deductible on your own. If you choose to do this, we would be happy to provide you with a copy of the claim documents. To obtain a copy of these documents or ask any questions about your claim, please feel free to call us at the number listed above.
We are sorry we were unable to recover your deductible. Thank you for your cooperation and assistance during this process.
You are a valued customer, and we sincerely appreciate your business.
They had a copy of the police report, which shows that the other driver began in the wrong lane (even including a diagram), but the arbitration findings specifically state that he chose the “correct lane”. The lesson here is that the insurance company won’t admit their driver is at fault unless there’s a police report that states such. Even when it’s clear that other drivers can more or less do whatever they want and not be found at fault unless the police say so.
Finally, a phone call from the prosecutor.
See call recording.
Big takeaways: he should have been charged with reckless driving and a felony.
Potential problem: he was offered a plea. It was not accepted, but they may be under the impression that it is still available. He called it a “gift” offer. That is, very lenient.
He also said that the treatment plan (anger management) was robust but that people tend not to change.
November 3 (3rd hearing)
This time we were all in the courtroom.
Defendant’s attorney isn’t a public defender.
They met with the prosecutor before the hearing. The prosecutor attended remotely (from within building). Defendant’s attorney told the judge that they had, in fact, accepted the offer. He said they had their response both in writing and in an email but that the acceptance was never recorded. He said that both sides will refer to case law to determine next course of action. Next hearing is 11/24 @ 9:00am.
His plea deal is essentially for the crime of giving me a bloody nose, not for giving me a concussion and a broken bone.
Between this and the election, I had a sleepless night. Didn’t fall asleep until after 3, woke up shortly after 6.
I spent some time composing a statement to give to the judge. Chris recommends emphasizing the vicious nature of the attack and my pain and suffering. Bob recommends keeping the language and my tone of voice neutral.
It’s four pages long in 16pt type, big enough for me to easily read.
I’ll try to polish it up a few times over the coming weeks. This will be my statement if the current plea ends up getting accepted. I’ll make a much shorter one if the result is different.
How long will this go on? I need some sort of completion. Every time I deal with the court or the insurance company I end up with a few sleepless nights.
Phone call from prosecutor. He thought he was talking to the defense. It took me a few minutes to get him to understand he was talking to the victim.
The initial offer was a deferred judgment, which means if he stays out of trouble for some period, the charges would get dropped.
The updated offer was probation.
We discussed the possibility of getting him to admit to his insurance company that he was at fault. He recommended we try to get restitution some other way, ie as part of the deal. I told him that I’ll certainly take Supitar to small claims if I don’t get made whole as part of this process.
He’s very confident that the initial offer has been successfully voided.
Today’s hearing only produced the next hearing date: 12/15 at 9am.
December 15 (4th hearing)
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Today’s hearing was scheduled for 9am. This hearing was remote, via telephone. I dialed in a minute or two early, but disconnected when what I was listening to was clearly not related to me. I reached out to the victim’s advocate to make sure the date or time didn’t change. She told me that the court was just running late and that I should get back on the line and wait patiently.
I sat through hearings for three or four cases: a homeless guy plead guilty for public indecency (urinating in public), another plead guilty for assault (two crimes, actually, part of a love triangle), one for a crime I didn’t catch who was already in custody and has served 30 days. He got sentenced to 90 days, including time served.
Finally mine came up. At 10:22. It was over at 10:33. Net result: a new hearing schedule for February 23 at 1:30pm.
Defense still wants the original offer. Defense will prepare some document arguing to that effect, presumably citing case law supporting it. They get 30 days to prepare it. Prosecutor gets 30 days to respond. He thinks the judge may have to decide on this. This is all about whether the original offer can be withdrawn or not, it has nothing to do with anything else.
This is getting tiresome.
“Justice delayed is justice denied.” – William E. Gladstone
February 23 (5th hearing)
The day before, Lana from Victim’s Advocate sent me an email:
“I am seeing that we originally had Mr. Supitar scheduled for tomorrow, however it looks like he appeared last week and resolved this case. Had the prosecutor reached out at all? In the notes I can see he plead guilty and was given a deferred judgment, I can’t see what the conditions of that were.”
The next day she was able to forward the sentencing summary to me. It’s dismal. He basically got off scot-free.
He didn’t even have to pay for my medical bills.
Clearly, justice cannot be served if the victim is never heard.
I sent copies of my dental bills to Victim’s Advocate. She said she’d help me get restitution; I told her I’d already received it. She wanted copies anyway, to give to the prosecutor. “Restitution is reserved for 91 days.” So perhaps he’ll have to pay for my dental bills in the end.
This whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. We had five court dates, and I did my best to show up at every one. In the end, the fifth got moved and I wasn’t notified. It seems that there’s no requirement for the victim to be notified of court date changes unless it’s a domestic violence case. I never got to say a word in court, not as a witness, and not to the judge. I’m flabbergasted that the victim is not important enough to be heard in court.
Sometime between the fourth and fifth hearings, Michael had an encounter with Supitar. Michael stopped at Safeway after work. As he was leaving, making the left turn onto Vance Drive, he had to wait for traffic. When he pulled onto Vance, he was behind Supitar in his pickup. Anybody who lives in the dozen or so houses around me would naturally take the same route. So, naturally, Michael was making the same turns as Supitar was. Before turning onto 85th Ave, Supitar pulled over, rolled his window down, and, Michael says, seemed to want to start an altercation.
When Supitar goes north on Otis Dr or east on 85th Ave, he can see our house and all the cars parked in front of it. So there’s no doubt in my mind that Supitar has seen Michael’s car before. Did he want to start an altercation because he knew Michael was my son (or at least, knew he lived here)? Or is he so paranoid that he would challenge anybody who’s driving in the same direction as he is? I think either answer indicates the guy has serious problems.
I have revenge fantasies. If you were to give me the opportunity to do to Supitar what he did to me, and the only consequence would be a hundred dollar fine, I’d happily do it.
A while back, my computer started giving me network errors when trying to access my local drive. This is not a good sign. Clearly, it was on the brink of disaster. So I bought a new computer. The old one lasted eight or nine years, and I hope its replacement will last at least as long. I truly hate upgrading computers. So many things go wrong; so many aggravations. So much swearing.
Last time, I spent the fifty bucks (or whatever amount it was) to buy software to make the migration easier. I think it worked pretty well, and I considered doing the same thing this time. I didn’t keep any notes on that prior process, but I have some vague memory of it doing some things I didn’t like. Not enough of a feeling to dissuade me, but enough that I spent some time looking at the actual scope of the migration problem.
The first thing I did was make an inventory of all the software I have installed on the old machine. First, I went through the Windows settings application for removing programs. I recognized pretty quickly that this was not a complete list, being that it lacked at least two programs I use fairly often. For several years, I’ve been using a program called Revo Uninstaller. I’ve found that it does a better job of uninstalling things than the native Windows program. Revo showed me a couple of things that the native app missed.
Given a good list of software, I faced the next issue. The old computer’s CD/DVD drive is broken, and the new computer doesn’t have an optical drive. Which will be a problem if I need to install software from a disk. (I later discovered later that the lack of any ability to read a disk isn’t the real problem when installing old software.)
Next, I checked my hard drives to see which programs I had saved the install files for. It has been my habit to keep these. Then, I went online to discover which programs I could download from the developers.
Given this information, I decided to do the migration manually. May God have mercy on my soul.
In the end, there were only three programs that gave me problems.
Least important of the three is a program I’ve been using to track my savings bonds. It is no longer available, the developers having moved the functionality to the web. I won’t go that route. I didn’t regularly track my bonds, but I think they’re all matured by now anyway, and I should cash them in and be done with it.
The next program in question is the one I’ve been using to make my videos. I can’t download it (short of buying the latest version), but I had the install files. However, when I ran the install program, it notified me that one of the files was corrupt. I recopied the file from the old computer and tried again, but no joy. This led me to searching the web for a replacement. I decided on Shotcut, a free open-source video editor. I’ve successfully made my first video with it, and I think I’ll be a happy user. But, even for the simple videos I make, I face a bit of a steep learning curve.
Finally, we get to Quicken. I’ve been using Quicken since 1994. I’ve upgraded several times over the years and am currently using Quicken 2015. Their business model has changed somewhat. They’ve switched to a subscription model. I’m not a big fan. For decades, I’ve been able to buy it, install it, and use it. I’d rather own than rent. Somehow, I don’t have the original install files. So I was a bad boy and found a copy of Quicken 2015 on a Russian BitTorrent site and downloaded it. I’m sure Intuit would claim I just stole something, even though I bought it way-back-when. So it goes.
I followed the instructions of the pirate version I downloaded and was off and running. Or, not so much “running” as “limping”. It got me to the point where I could register my copy with Intuit. After that, I got a message that, because Quicken 2015 is no longer supported, it wouldn’t update from the original release to the latest version (that I have on the old computer). And, of course, it wouldn’t let me run the version that I’d just installed.
Now that it was installed, I was hoping that it had finished doing whatever magic needed to be done with the registry. I copied the Quicken program folder from the old machine to the new and tried again. It fired up with a brand new (empty) database, which seemed like progress. After two or three tries to get it to open my database (with 26 years of data), I finally had success. This version of the program will “crash” the first time I fire it up each day, but it seems to be working just fine. It has been crashing on startup for quite a while now. I’m pretty sure it’s just trying to check for updates, and as it’s unsupported it just crashes. It only looks for updates once a day, so the second time I launch it, it works. I can find no setting that would allow me to stop it looking for updates.
One piece of software that I had no availability concerns was iTunes. I consider iTunes to be possibly the worst software I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. But I have an ancient iPod that serves me well, so I’m more or less chained to iTunes. This one should have given me no migration problems, as Apple kindly provides step-by-step instructions on the web. I followed these instructions precisely. It only took three tries to achieve success. I guess they just wanted to fuck with me: “You were expecting to see your music library here? Ha! Try again!”
One of the side-effects of downloading and installing the programs I use is that I get updated to the latest versions. Not everything updates itself constantly. I’m okay with this. Perhaps I should be paying better attention to those that don’t update themselves regularly. So far, I’ve only come across one update that has caused me any issues, which I resolved after a quick internet search.
I still have a few things to download and install, but I’m going to call this migration “done”.
I’m sure the family is happy that this process was fairly trouble-free. They expected to hear much more foul language.
The last thing I’ll whine about is this: Genae uses this computer, too. When I went to add her as a user, I learned that I can’t add users that Microsoft doesn’t approve of. That is, Microsoft won’t let me add a user to this computer, my computer, in my house, without their permission. I added her as a “family member”. There are two options for this: Organizer or Member. I will be the administrator of this computer, so I made her a “member”. She had to set up an account with Microsoft and had to provide her birthdate. Now, when I go into the users control panel, I see my wife listed as “child”. Given that Microsoft asked her age, they know she’s not a child. I really don’t like that I’m not in charge of who can use my computer. The best answer, it seems, is to remove her from my “family” and set her up as an “other user”.
With the new computer comes a new problem. I no longer have the excuse that my computer lacks the specs required to run various games, like Cities: Skylines or the latest racing sim. I will either have to devise a new excuse or succumb to one or more of these high-tech time wasters.
Even long-time readers of this blog may not have known I have an accompanying gallery of photos. Actually, the gallery predates the blog by a long time. I first started it when my website was self-hosted. When I moved to hosting by Godaddy, I had to stop using the software that ran the gallery and convert to one of Godaddy’s canned solutions. Then that solution had a major upgrade and I faced a manual migration.
I looked at the available choices and decided to go with the new version of the one I’d been using for a while. That was several years ago. In the interim, that one got abandoned by the developers and has been “in hibernation”. I’m not sure what that really means, other than it’s no longer supported. But it has been working, so I haven’t been too worried about it.
Bottom line, I have been neglecting the gallery. For the most part, it was just pictures of places I’ve been in RMNP. I’ve failed to update it with photos from many of my recent hikes there. And I’ve been to lots of other places and I want the gallery to reflect that. I had some nebulous plans as to how I’d organize it, but inertia was difficult to overcome. Also, what I had was inconsistently titled and tagged and I’d provided only about half the descriptive information I wanted.
I finally overcame the inertia. My first decision was whether to migrate to a new solution or not. I am accustomed to the old system, but it had a time worn appearance. Sure, it was unsupported, but one of the realities of using free solutions is that I could switch to something else and there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t be in the same situation tomorrow. I had a good idea of how much effort it would take to get the current one updated but I didn’t want to think about how much more it would take to migrate.
So the decision point comes down to how much effort do I want to put into this project to a) get on a supported product, and b) improve the look and feel and perhaps functionality of it. My choices are pretty limited: Coppermine, Koken, Piwigo, TinyWebGallery, and Zenphoto. After looking at some examples and some documentation, I fired up an instance of Koken and started playing around with it. It didn’t take long to decide to go with it.
I now have everything migrated, and have filled in most of the gaps that I had in my legacy project. I figure I’m somewhere between two-thirds and four-fifths complete. It will have three main areas: Landscapes, Cityscapes, and Machines. The first two are fundamentally complete. I still need to put some thought into how to organize, categorize, and tag the Machine area.
I’ve updated the blog pages that link to the gallery, but I haven’t done much more than test the links the other way, from the gallery to the blog. It has a look and feel that’s much closer to the blog than before, and I do like a few of the new features that are available, even though I did have to give up some minor functionality.
If you’re so inclined, poke around the new gallery. Feel free to leave a note here if you have any suggestions or complaints.
I’ve been wanting to do something special with my helmet for quite a while. I figured a Colorado flag, but with the Lotus roundel in the center of the C instead of plain yellow. A couple years ago I had somebody lined up to do it, but he was always too busy. Six months ago or so I had somebody else slated, but that didn’t work out either. A few weeks ago I decided I’d do it myself. What’s the worst that can happen?
Two weeks ago I stopped by the Man Cave to purchase some vinyl. One of the guys asked what I wanted to do. I explained it to him and he went over to a rack of giant vinyl rolls. “I don’t have any yellow, but here’s some blue. And I have red in here.” I told him I didn’t need the yellow because I’d be using a sticker. He just gave me some scraps, no charge. Can’t beat that.
I was apprehensive about how to cut the vinyl so I watched some you tube videos. I learned about knifeless tape. It’s a kevlar strand you lay down, then put the vinyl over the top. Yank the strand out and it makes a nice cut. So I found some on eBay. 3M makes some, and somebody on eBay was selling a knock-off (made by 5M!). I found some genuine stuff and placed the order. Finally, I borrowed a heat gun and was ready.
First thing was to peel all the stickers off, take off the visor and HANS hardware, and clean it up as much as possible. It’s a bit scuffed up, but so it goes. Then apply the tape to get the blue stripes about right. I found a tiny frying pan the right size for the outside circumference of the C and used that as a pattern and cut it out with an xacto knife. All this was sized based on the size of my sticker.
I needed three hands to do this, so Michael helped. He worked the heat gun as necessary while I stretched the vinyl out. I’ve never worked with this stuff before, and I’m not a particularly artistic guy. But I figured the worst that would happen would be I waste some free vinyl and a sticker. I could always give it another shot later if I got close, or give up entirely if I did a horrible job.
The first stripe came out pretty good, until it came time to pull the kevlar thread through to make the cuts. It wasn’t quite as easy as the pro on you tube made it look. But I managed to get it to work before I gave up. The second stripe was a bit easier.
I cut my red circle in the shape of a Pac-Man. The Lotus Colorado sticker would cover the center part so I didn’t bother with any further cuts. Stretching the red (almost) circle didn’t go as smoothly as the stripes, but it’s not bad. There are a couple of small wrinkles and I had to do a little trimming because after stretching it, it was no longer perfectly circular. And the LoCo sticker has a wrinkle in it, too. But considering it’s my first time trying any of this, I’m quite happy with the results. It’s a helmet, and it will get more scuffed up in the years to come, so I wasn’t looking for perfection.
Yeah, I know the blue is the wrong color. I don’t care. I’m quite happy with the results.
I bought my first Fitbit, the Charge HR, about three years ago. I got it more out of curiosity about my heart rate than obsession about tracking my steps. I particularly wanted to know what my heart was up to when hiking, and a general curiosity about my resting heart rate.
Weak point (repaired)
That first one lasted nearly a year. It’s demise was due to a weakness in the construction around where you plug in the charging cable. I emailed their support line, including a photo of the thing. I was thinking along the lines of, could I glue it back together? We determined, though, that it was still under warranty and they sent me out a new one.
The next one lasted just over a year. It failed in the same way. This time, though, it had the added problem of the neoprene (or whatever material it is) of the wristband separating from the underlying structure. First it developed a big bubble, then the adhesive failed all the way to the hard plastic of the face.
The third one met the same fate as the first two, surprise, surprise. I superglued the charging bit back together. For the first few days after that, it wouldn’t charge. But finally it got itself connected and has been hanging on since then. Shortly after the glue operation the neoprene formed a bubble and entropy has been increasing.
Silly me, after having two of these things more or less fall apart in about a year, I bought another one. I forget exactly what I paid for them, but it was in the neighborhood of $140. I’m a bit old-fashioned, I guess, in that I expect a watch to last for several years. Although I haven’t worn a watch since the advent of the cell phone, that last watch is more than 20 years old and still works. Yes, I know a Fitbit isn’t a watch. But it doesn’t have any moving parts and gets treated in pretty much every way like a watch does so I expected it to last more than a year. It certainly isn’t worth about three bucks a week to satisfy my curiosity about my heart rate.
And yet, here I am, the proud owner of a new Fitbit Charge 3. It cost $150, purchased through Amazon, and I went the extra mile and paid the twenty bucks or so for a three year warranty. We’ll see how that turns out.
I ordered it before it hit the market. Shipping was delayed once, but it finally arrived after about a month. I opened up the box to find… an incomplete package. I thought I got only half the wristband, but it turns out they ship with both the small and large wristbands. I had the large one, but the Fitbit itself was missing. So I went through the return process. The replacement arrived this morning.
They’ve upgraded the way it connects to the charge cable. It looks like this new method will not suffer the problem of the earlier model. Also, the material on the wristband looks different. It’s probably the same stuff, but the texture is different and I’m hoping that they’ve addressed the bubbling issue.
Old (left), new (right)
First thing you do with these things is charge them. It took me five tries to get it to connect. The first couple I just didn’t have it properly connected. After getting the satisfying “click” of a proper connection, it still wasn’t charging. Eventually, it started working. I don’t know why it was so reluctant.
Next thing was to get it set up. That means using the phone app to connect to it. As I already have the app installed, this should be dead simple. I’ve done this three times before. Today, it took four or five tries. “Be sure bluetooth is activated” “Be sure the device is near your phone” “Be sure no other Fitbits are nearby” “Be sure your phone is updated” and so on. Eventually it made the connection.
So I’m up and running on the new device. I’ve only had it a couple of hours, but my first impression is it’s an improvement on the original. The display is bigger and shows more information without having to press the button. I’m not expecting great things – I wanted a direct replacement, no additional features (such as GPS). So I’m only hoping that it works as well as the last 3, but, of course, lasts longer.
The first one required that I push the button for it to record an activity. The second and third ones recorded my activity without my intervention. They were fairly accurate. Occasionally, it would take a minute to show me my pulse when I was particularly active, and every now and then it would record a pulse that was unreasonably high. But for the most part I was happy with it.
As to distance, the older model was quite accurate when I was walking on the sidewalks through the neighborhood. It overstated my distance when hiking, which makes sense to me. On a sidewalk, my stride is pretty consistent. On the trail I’m stepping over rocks and roots and my stride varies considerably. So the device tells me I’ve covered more distance than I really have. I’m confident that it has accurately recorded the number of steps I’ve taken.
Well, usually. The old one credited me with steps when I was driving. This didn’t have anything to do with driving a stick shift. I got steps in both the Lotus and the Chrysler, though I got more steps in the Lotus. I’m guessing it has to do with the firmness of the ride. Amusingly, when in the Lotus at the track, it records my activity as “Outdoor Bike”. Regular highway driving doesn’t get recorded as an activity. A session on the track gets my heart going about the same as hiking at 10,000′ above sea level, but regular driving doesn’t do much.
I’m heading up to Alliance, NE, for the solar eclipse. We’ll be staying in a campground just a couple hundred yards north of Carhenge. I made camping reservations several months ago but have manged to procrastinate on all other preparations since then. Now that we’re just a week away, I figured it might be time to get things a little bit more organized.
I dug through the shed and found a tent I didn’t know I had. I was looking for the two man tent and couldn’t find it. Instead I came across a larger four man tent. I got it out and did a quick set up, so I’m all set there. Found the gazebo and a lawn chair, too.
I had been thinking all along that I wouldn’t bother trying to photograph the eclipse at all. My first impediment was that I don’t have a long enough lens. In addition, I don’t have a solar filter and I’m not likely to get a picture anything like as good as somebody who’s done this before. But then when I was chatting with Mike at the Warbirds show he said he’d be happy to lend me his 600mm zoom and convinced me to give it a try in spite of my reluctance.
I got online and found a filter I thought would work. It’s for a telescope but should work for his lens. I ordered it and when it arrived I was disappointed to discover that it’s too small. It’s too late to send it back and try to get one the correct size, so I’ll make this one work by taping it onto the lens.
Then I went into the back yard and tried to take my first picture of the sun. With the solar filter on the camera, everything except the sun is black. I tried for a few minutes was unable to even locate the sun through the lens. I did verify that the filter works as expected using my regular lens, where the sun shows up as a fairly small, unimpressive circle.
Center the white bit on the back panel and I more or less have the sun lined up.
I asked around for suggestions and Jim and Travis provided the answer. They said I could fabricate a little solar viewfinder out of cardboard that would do the trick. So I just put one together and went into the back yard and had another go at it.
My first sun photo. Nothing to see here…
I was thinking I’d need 1000mm of lens, and briefly considered buying a teleconverter. But this shot is at 600 and looks like it will be sufficient.
Being that we’ll have no moon next Sunday night, and we’ll be a couple hundred miles from any large cities, if the skies are clear we should have a nice view of the Milky Way. I will take a shot at astrophotography. Again, not something I’ve ever tried before. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?
I was hoping that this entry would be the end of the story of the Ordeal of the Camshaft. We had our day in court but we don’t have the end of the story yet. It’s a cliffhanger!
Monday, July 24
This is Victor’s case, I’m just a witness. I’ve been called up for jury duty a few times, but never had to serve. So outside of traffic court I’ve had no dealings with the justice system.
We arrived in Judge Ecton’s courtroom at about 8:00am. A docket is posted on the wall just outside the doors. We were second on the list. After we seated ourselves in the gallery, the court clerk came by and did a little roll call.
Shortly after that the judge entered the courtroom. “Everybody rise!” He took his seat at the bench and gave a little introductory speech. This is not an episode of Judge Judy, or whatever court show you watch on TV. We follow some rules of evidence. There are no surprises here. If you want to introduce an exhibit into evidence, your opponent has to know about it and will have an opportunity to object.
Each side can make a one minute opening statement. Each side may call as many as three witnesses, and each witness is given ten minutes. Then there’s an opportunity for the other side to cross-examine. Then the first side can ask any additional questions that may arise from the cross-examination. The judge controls the stopwatch.
Those are the basic rules, but before we could get to any of that, each case was sent to mediation. This mediation took place in another room, with just the principal parties. As a witness I was not a party in the mediation. The judge instructed that there would be a minimum of fifteen minutes of mediation. If mediation failed to produce an outcome, both parties would return to the courtroom ready to follow the process above.
While Victor and the defendant were in mediation, and after a short pause, the first case was handled. In this case the defendant didn’t show so the plaintiff won automatically. The plaintiff was awarded his claim of $1500.
Then the first case came back from mediation. This was between a Mr. Benson and a Mrs. Benson. Mediation produced a result, and Mrs. Benson would pay Mr. Benson $1300. Because everything was handled outside the room, we in the gallery were left in the dark as to exactly what this was all about. The imagination runs wild: are they man and wife? Brother and sister?
I didn’t check the time, but it was more than half an hour before the mediator for our case returned to the courtroom, Victor and the Ehrlich Toyota people in tow. Mediation failed to provide an agreement, so we would come to trial. But one key point was not disputed: Ehrlich did not contest that the parts they supplied were defective.
So now the fun begins. I admit that I’m not a court reporter, not a stenographer, don’t take shorthand, and didn’t even have a pen and paper to take notes with. I was able to key a few short notes into my phone, but that was the extent of it, and I can’t type worth a damn on my phone. So it’s very likely that my record here contains some minor errors or omissions. I do feel that I’ve recorded the major points fairly and completely.
The woman in charge on their side was the one Victor had been dealing with over the several months this has gone on. I don’t know her position in the company, and managed not to record her name (surprise, surprise) but she’s not one of the owners. She was supported by one of their technical people and at the last minute was joined by one of the Ehrlich family. Between mediation and the start of the trail, Victor wondered aloud why he was dealing with her and not one of the owners. He went out into the hall for a couple of minutes to try to talk to him but returned unsatisfied.
We began with the short opening statements, Victor going first. Nothing particularly interesting was said by either party, with the exception of Victor being mildly chided by the judge. Victor had interrupted the judge. This is a no-no. When it happened I didn’t even notice it, probably because I have a tendency to do the same thing. Almost immediately after that, the judge cautioned Victor for making “inflammatory” remarks. These remarks had to do with our feeling that Ehrlich’s warranty policy was just a policy and didn’t carry the weight of law. It doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for the damage the defective part caused. After this mild dressing down, there were no more cautions from the judge, although I think Victor may have gotten close when he made the same point later in the proceedings.
Victor was the first witness. As he’s also the plaintiff, it obviously wasn’t the usual question-and-answer process one sees on TV. Most of our exhibits were documents, but we did have the damaged head and sprocket. He set the head right on the witness stand, although he never had to point out the damage that was caused by the bad cam. He spent a few minutes going over the events that led us here. He did a pretty good job, even though he seemed to me to be a bit nervous. He was then cross-examined by the defendant.
One of the key parts of Victor’s testimony relates to why Victor is the one with the claim instead of me. Essentially, I assigned the portion of the bill relating to rebuilding the head to Victor. He felt it was wrong to stick me with this bill and that he would make the claim rather than force me to do it. I think the Ehrlich people thought explaining this thought process was a weakness, and they brought it up later in a derogatory way later on.
Victor called me as the second witness. “Raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I do. No bibles were involved, and no swearing to god. “State your name, and spell your last name.” I took my seat at the witness stand.
Victor started with High Mountain Classic’s reputation. What was said about their work? After this experience, did my opinion of their reputation change? A few other questions of that nature. Then Victor had me read a few paragraphs from my blog, a printout of which had been entered into evidence as one of the exhibits. The judge said it wasn’t necessary for me to read any of it, as he’d be able to read it himself, but Victor had me read a key passage anyway.
Next up was cross-examination. Why did I go to High Mountain Classics rather than a Toyota dealer? What was the nature of the work I had them perform? Did I consider using parts other than from Toyota? Is my car a daily driver? Do I take it to the race track, do I race the car? I said that I never considered taking the car to a Toyota dealer. I’ve not known any Lotus owners to do this. I explained my thought process, that I considered going to Ferrari of Denver or to my usual shop (Peak Eurosport) but chose Victor after discussing the issue with him after a club meeting.
When it came to the specific work, the judge interjected some questions. I explained that there were issues with the hardening failing on the cams and that it was recommended that they are periodically inspected for abnormal wear. HMC performed the inspection and found wear was starting and recommended replacement of the parts. I made clear to the judge that the wear problem was totally unrelated to the defect in the parts where the burrs were sent through the motor, damaging the head.
I was a bit surprised by some of these questions. Why was it important to know if I considered other sources for the parts? I told how I came to the decision to use Toyota parts: I looked into the Stage 2 MonkeyWrench racing cam, but dismissed this because it would involve a lot of additional work. I felt that the known, good, Toyota part was the best way to go, and that Toyota reliability was a large factor in purchasing the car in the first place.
I also didn’t understand why they wanted to know if I raced the car. I said that I don’t have a daily commute, that I put an average of eight thousand miles a year on the car and that track days account for a small fraction of the miles. I told the judge that an HPDE day is not competition. In any case, it seems irrelevant to me. This is about the defective part wrecking my engine. I don’t know why they felt it was an important issue.
Van was the technician at HMC that did the work on my car. He was the third witness. Before the trial started we sat together in the back of the gallery and chatted. When I asked him how he got into auto restoration he quickly gave me his entire CV. It starts with him earning a BS in Auto Restoration. I didn’t know such a degree was available. He told me there’s just the one school that offers it. After graduation he’s worked in a number of jobs that sounded quite interesting, including a stint at Tesla.
So, of course, the first thing the defendant did was attack his credibility. Are you a certified Toyota mechanic? Have you ever worked on this particular engine before? Why didn’t you notice that the part was defective before installing it? Why didn’t you do the rebuild of the head? Van is, of course, an ASE certified mechanic. He routinely works on engines he’s never seen before. He says he followed Toyota’s procedure for replacing the part, and that procedure didn’t include anything about checking for burrs in the camshaft internals. Ryan was brought in because HMC was falling behind on the other projects.
Next there was a line of questioning about labor rates. HMC doesn’t use the flat rates. They bill for actual hours, not book hours. I suppose that was to call into question the amount of the bill. But this is misdirection as well, because the hours worked on the rebuild were not Van’s, they were Ryan’s, the certified Lotus mechanic.
Again, I’m somewhat puzzled by many of these questions. There is no dispute that the parts they supplied were defective. They seem to be trying to say that it wasn’t the defective parts that caused the problems, but an inexperienced or incompetent mechanic. (Van, is, of course, neither.)
Ehrlich’s only witness was the woman Victor has been dealing with through this whole process. She emphasized that all the receipts have a disclaimer on them, saying that their warranty does not include implied merchantability and does not cover any labor. During my testimony, the part of my blog that Victor had me read included the bit about all the cams in their stock were also bad. The judge asked if this was true. She said she didn’t know.
In Ehrlich’s closing remark, they proudly stated that had all this happened in their shop, they’d never think of sticking the customer with the bill. This, clearly, was in response to Victor presenting the bill to me with the full amount, which then had the rebuild backed out. I paraphrase, but they essentially said, “We would never leave the customer holding the bag.” And, yet, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do here. HMC is the customer. HMC bought defective parts that caused me extensive property damage, and they’re adamant that they’re not responsible. The didn’t seem to see the irony.
One of the final questions that came up was why Victor is going after Ehrlich rather than Toyota USA or Toyota Japan. Here’s the one place where I thought Victor’s response was weak, but I couldn’t help him out. He said that he was afraid it would cost too much to pursue a giant Japanese corporation, didn’t want to go out of state or out of the country. Ehrlich said that Toyota USA has people here in Denver, so none of Victor’s fears are valid. My answer would have been that we hadn’t had any dealings with Toyota USA or Toyota Japan: we’ve been dealing all along with Ehrlich.
This question, in fact, is the only part of this whole suit that bothers me. Before we started down this path, my research indicated that if we were to go after the wrong party, we could win the case but still never get compensated. If there’s something in the law that we don’t know about (and we don’t know much), we could very well be going after the wrong party.
I don’t know anything about the law, but here’s how I reason this part out. I dealt with Victor, not Ehrlich. Victor dealt with Ehrlich, not Toyota USA. Ehrlich’s transaction was with Toyota USA, who presumably had a transaction with Toyota Japan, who may have had a third (sixth?) party like Denso actually manufacture the part. It’s a chain of command and you can’t go out of sequence. If Victor had stuck me with the bill, it should be obvious that I’d have to make a claim against him and no one else. In fact, it’s generally the case that the chain above Victor is invisible to me. I have no idea, for example, where Peak Eurosport gets their parts.
So Victor has a loss caused by a bad part. And just as the chain of transactions above Victor are invisible to me, the chain above Ehrlich is invisible to him. He can guess, just as I’ve guessed, what that chain looks like. But he can’t really know. The only party he can go after, then, is Ehrlich.
Victor’s only remedy against Ehrlich is this small claims proceeding. Ehrlich, on the other hand, certainly is in a different situation. Had they done the right thing and paid a warranty claim to Victor for the work, they can surely make the claim from where they got the bad part. And we’ve seen that this relationship exists and works. The engineer that came to HMC to inspect my car was from Toyota USA. It was this engineer that authorized the replacement of the defective cams. This is the undisputed fact: Toyota USA admits the part was bad.
It’s a no-brainer that Ehrlich would pay Victor and make a claim to Toyota, because Toyota admits the fault. So why doesn’t Ehrlich do the right thing? Why make Victor take them to court? I can only assume that the claims resolution mechanism in whatever agreements and contracts exist between Ehrlich and Toyota USA do not allow for payment of damages unless one of their guys does the work. You’d think there’d be some sort of arbitration mechanism. Doesn’t anybody in this chain have any general liability insurance that covers this sort of circumstance? I’d hate to think that the only remedy is going to court. Yet, here we are.
It was approaching noon when we headed out the door. It had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated. The judge did not come to a verdict. Not knowing how it all worked, I was a bit surprised. I expected an answer. As the man said, this isn’t Judge Judy. It only makes sense that he should have some time to go through the exhibits and review the testimony before making up his mind.
Leaving the courtroom I was unsure of how things would turn out. But after writing it all out here, I feel pretty good. Ehrlich is the only party we can logically go after. Toyota accepted from the start that the parts they supplied were bad. That’s the key piece. Ehrlich’s only defense was misdirection. I made a mistake in not taking it to a Toyota dealer. I abuse the car by racing it. Van can’t possibly fix a Toyota engine. HMC wasn’t qualified to do the work and had to call in the Lotus mechanic. Victor is going after the wrong people. None of this is true, and none of this changes the fact that all the parts they supplied were defective.
I think chances are good that Victor will win. So the question now is, how long before we get an answer? I will, of course, share the results of the case when I learn the verdict.
When Victor called me last week to discuss the case, he mentioned that he saw the video of my exhaust barfing out its insides. I told him half the shops I’d talked to about repairing it had never heard of repacking the exhaust and that said they could send it to Canada for repair. Victor said they do this sort of work all the time on the Bugattis. It only makes sense: where do you go to replace the muffler for a Bugatti 39? Victor had me bring my exhaust with me so I could give it to him to fix. Rather than repacking with fiberglass they’ll use steel wool. It will sound a bit different, but it should last longer.
When I handed it over, I shook it a bit and we could hear the innards rattling around. They both knew immediately what had happened. Through the center of the can there’s a perforated steel pipe. This pipe has rusted away and could no longer hold the packing. (Rust? It took me half a beat. Water is one of the main outputs of combustion.) They’ll cut the end off, replace the perforated pipe, pack with steel wool, weld it back together and I’ll be on my way. I told them there’s no need to hurry as I’m fine running the stock exhaust for a while.