The state of Washington and Grandy Lake Forest Associates, a timber company, have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by victims and family members of those who died in the 2014 Oso landslide for a total of $60 million. The state of Washington will pay $50 million and the timber company will pay $10 million in the settlement.
The Plaintiffs in the case made wrongful death and personal injury claims. A landslide near Oso killed 43 people in March 2014. It was alleged that alterations, including adding debris and soil, were made to a hillside that was known to be extremely dangerous due to past landslides. The Plaintiffs’ lawyers had this to say about the settlement:
These settlements are one step forward in obtaining accountability for the acts that resulted in plaintiffs’ losses. Plaintiffs will also continue to pursue steps to change the way government, landowners and timber companies address these types of landslides in the hope of avoiding similar tragedies in the future.
The state of Washington also said in the settlement agreement it would pay about $394,000 in attorney’s fees for work done to resolve an issue of evidence being deleted by the state’s expert witnesses. King County Superior Court Judge Roger Rogoff had said that he would sanction the state over allegations that the state knew its experts were deleting emails and that one of the state’s lawyers appeared to have encouraged the action. The judge also ordered the state to pay about $789,000 in punitive damages over the email deletions.
The Plaintiffs had alleged that the group of scientists the state had as their expert witnesses changed their findings of how dangerous the hillside was to help the state’s case, and tried to hide the trail by deleting emails.
The case is Ryan M. Pszonka et al. v. Snohomish County et al. in the Superior Court of the State of Washington In and For King County.
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