Plaintiffs’ attorneys say they have reached a $50 million settlement with the state in an Oso landslide lawsuit, subject to approval by a judge.
The attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the liability lawsuit against the state over the deadly 2014 Oso landslide have announced a $50 million settlement on the eve of trial.
The settlement will include an additional nearly $395,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs for sanction motions and does not include any penalties a King County Superior Court judge might impose against the state for the destruction by state experts of emails.
The proposed settlement was reached Sunday, the day before a jury was set to convene in the trial, which was expected to last months.
The settlement must be approved by Judge Roger Rogoff, who has presided over the litigation.
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The lawsuit was filed by survivors and family members of the 43 people who died in the March 22, 2014, landslide that raced across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish and into the Steelhead Haven community.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys allege that a crib wall fence built on state property retained loose soils from earlier landslides and increased the ability of the leading edge of the massive 2014 landslide to move the way it did as it swept through the neighborhood.
The state’s attorneys, in their court filings, have repeatedly rejected the plaintiffs’ allegations that actions on state lands increased the risk or aggravated the severity of the landslide.
The state is expected to pay the first $10 million of the settlement, with insurers paying the other $40 million.
The settlement comes in the aftermath of a tumultuous run-up for the state defense, which faces sanctions from Rogoff for failing to disclose that the expert witnesses hired to help make the state’s case improperly deleted email communications between one another.
The settlement does not involve another defendant in the trial, Grandy Lake Forest Associates, a timber land owner accused of logging that increased the instability of the slide zone.
The plaintiffs argue that logging on Grandy Lake land boosted the risks by increasing runoff and making the property more vulnerable to landslides.
The plaintiffs’ attorney said they will continue to pursue claims against Grandy at the trial and will continue — on appeal — to press claims against Snohomish County, which Rogoff in an earlier ruling dismissed from the case.
“The community was never given the chance to make a meaningful decision about landslide risks because the State and other defendants — who possessed critical information about the unstable and potentially devastating nature of those risks — refused to give them that information,” said a statement released by the plaintiffs’ attorneys on Sunday.
A spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office could not be reached for comment Sunday.