Oso landslide lawsuits: who has the strongest case

by: Essex Porter Updated:

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In the days after the slide, a growing pile of documents reveals there was a lot of advance warning that the Oso area could likely be struck by catastrophic slides.

And those warnings will become the basis of lawsuits that could cost taxpayers millions.

One of the top landslide lawyers in the state says survivors can sue for the loss of their loved ones, the loss of property, and emotional distress.

“I believe that this case is a pretty strong case,” said attorney Karen Willie, who specializes in landslide lawsuits.

“I'd have to know a lot more, but right now I'm feeling as if the state had warnings, she said.”

Willie says homeowners may not have the strongest claims.

She says drivers hit by the slide on Highway 530 will have clear claims because state law establishes a strong legal duty to ensure the safety of travelers.

She believes homeowners have a good case, but that it is tempered by the fact that there is some immunity under state law for governments exercising their regulatory and permitting functions.

She points to a study suggesting that private property owners be bought out. That would have cost roughly $2 million years ago. Now Snohomish County is likely to pay out much more in legal claims.