$60M Total Reached in Settlements For Oso Landslide Survivors

SEATTLE— An attorney says survivors and family members of people who died in a massive 2014 landslide north of Seattle have reached a total of $60 million settlement with the state of Washington and the timber company that logged an area above a massive 2014 landslide.

A $10 million settlement with Grandy Lake Forest Associates came hours after the state of Washington announced it would pay $50 million to settle the case. The trail was set to begin Monday in King County Superior Court before King County Superior Court Judge Roger Rogoff went before the court to announce the settlement.

The lawsuit was filed following the devastating March 22, 2014, Oso landslide, which wiped out a rural neighborhood and killed 43 people.

The victims or their families alleged that the state, Snohomish County or a company that logged above where the hillside collapsed have liability for worsening the damage or failing to warn about the danger. The plaintiffs argued that the logging on Grandy Lake land heightened risks of increased runoff, which made the property more vulnerable to landslides.

The judge also ordered the state to pay more than $394,000 in costs and attorney fees due to the deleted emails and to pay another nearly $789,000 in punitive damages.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has acknowledged one of his lawyers knew for the past year and a half that experts hired by the state to determine the cause of the 2014 slide were deleting emails among themselves.

A judge hearing a lawsuit brought by victims of a deadly landslide north of Seattle has ordered the state of Washington to pay more than $1.1 million because the state’s expert witnesses in the litigation were deleting emails that should have been preserved.

Last week Rogoff ordered the Washington Attorney General’s Office to give him internal emails that might help explain when state lawyers handling the landslide liability case realized that their expert witnesses were improperly deleting emails. Rogoff ordered the office to produce the emails, saying it’s critical for him to know what they show as he considers punishing the state for allowing the destruction of potential evidence in the case.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has already acknowledged that one of his lawyers knew for the past year and a half that experts hired by the state to determine the cause of the 2014 slide were deleting emails among themselves. But the office insists that its other lawyers were unaware, and that the lawyers and the experts believed the emails did not need to be turned over to the plaintiffs and thus could be deleted.

Following the landslide the state imposed new rules on logging in landslide-prone areas. The slide struck after weeks of heavy rains. The neighborhood that was destroyed was a development of about 35 single-family homes, some dating to the 1960s, across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River from a hillside in the Cascade Mountains.

The river eroded the base of the hill, as it had been doing for decades, causing numerous smaller slides. The deadly 2014 slide produced enough sand and soil to cover 600 football fields, which rushed down and swept the river up with it. A highway was buried under as much as 20 feet of muck.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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