The Korean parents of a student who died in the 2015 Ducks crash on Aurora Bridge challenged in federal court the constitutionality of sections of the state’s wrongful-death law, calling the language discriminatory.
A Seattle federal judge has dismissed claims by parents of a student killed in the 2015 Ride the Ducks crash who argued part of Washington’s wrongful-death law, written in 1909, discriminates against them.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly issued the ruling regarding the complaint by Kim Soon Wan and Jeong Ju Hee, the parents of Kim Ha Ram, who died at age 20 in the Sept. 24 crash in Seattle.
The family’s case argued a part of the law — which allows parents to bring forward such claims only if they were in the U.S. at the time of the death — violates sections of the 14th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, as well as Washington’s Constitution and anti-discrimination law. The family lives in South Korea.
The family’s complaint, which names as defendants Ride the Ducks of Seattle and Ride the Ducks International in Missouri, came among numerous lawsuits filed over the deadly crash. A Ride the Ducks tourist vehicle slammed into an oncoming charter bus filled with North Seattle College students, killing five and injuring dozens more.
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The language in Washington’s wrongful-death law, however, is two-pronged. In addition to the residency requirement, parents may bring such claims over the death of a single adult child only if they can prove dependency on the child for support.
Only state lawmakers can change the language.
According to the judge’s court order, the family did not plead that they were financially dependent on Kim Ha Ram, and the facts alleged in the complaint do not support that. The plaintiffs also failed to meet the residence requirement, the document says.
For the family’s estate, available damages include funeral and medical expenses, as well as certain punitive damages, potentially, according to attorney William Schroeder, who is representing them.
A spokeswoman for Ride the Ducks of Seattle said the company had no comment on the judge’s dismissal.
Seattle lawyer Karen Koehler, who is representing 20 victims from the deadly crash, said in an email her case is moving forward.
Kim Ha Ram is survived by two younger siblings and her parents, who live in Namyangju, which is in Gyeonggi province, South Korea.