38 Oso Slide Legal Claims Filed Against State Of Washington, More Expected

By Austin Jenkins

The deadly Oso landslide in March has resulted in a blizzard of legal claims against the state of Washington. As of Tuesday, the state’s risk management office reports it has received 38 tort claims – these are precursors to a lawsuit. Claims have also been filed against Snohomish County.

Named in the claims are the Washington Departments of Natural Resources, Ecology, Fish and Wildlife and Transportation. They have been filed on behalf of the estates of victims who perished; property owners who survived, but lost everything; and by insurance companies that seek reimbursement for policy payouts. Karen Willie is one of the attorneys representing several of the families and property owners. She calls the Oso landslide a catastrophic event that’s taken a huge emotional toll on the survivors.

Karen Willie: “And we’re talking about kids. We’re talking about young adults that are in their 20s. And there’s wives and husbands and it’s just awful.”

Willie says the basis for this legal action is a principle in the law called “duty of care.” It’s basically the idea that government has a duty to prevent harm to the public. One angle Willie is pursuing is whether some of the victims may survived the slide, been trapped and died hours later of hypothermia. She says if that turns out to be the case, then damages for pain and suffering would also be pursued.

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