The settlement Monday comes one day after the plaintiffs settled their lawsuit with the state of Washington for $50 million. “This must never happen again,” said a woman who lost her husband in the disaster.
The survivors and families of the 43 people killed in the 2014 Oso landslide have reached settlements totaling $60 million with the state and the timber company that was logging atop the mountain despite its long history of instability.
Monday’s $10 million settlement with Grandy Lake Forest Associates came just hours after the state of Washington announced it would pay $50 million to settle the case. Opening statements in the trial, which was expected to last more than three months, were to begin Monday in King County Superior Court.
Several members of the jury seemed relieved when Judge Roger Rogoff announced the settlement and told them they could go home.
Rogoff, in accepting the settlement, praised both sides in the case, saying the people of Washington, the victims and their families had been “well served” by the attorneys in the case.
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However, he added that “no legal settlement … or anything that happens in a courtroom could ever replace what you have lost.”
“But I hope it brings some sense of closure,” he said.
The state settlement includes in addition nearly $395,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs for sanction motions. Also, the judge Monday ordered the state to pay nearly $789,000 in punitive damages for the destruction of emails by the state’s expert witnesses.
Also pending is an appeal of an earlier ruling by Rogoff dismissing Snohomish County from the lawsuit.
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.
According to attorneys, there were a total 27 plaintiffs involved, filing a total of 39 death and injury claims against the defendants.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys alleged that a crib-wall fence built on state property retained loose soils from earlier landslides and increased the likelihood of the slide’s leading edge to sweep through the neighborhood.
The plaintiffs also had argued that logging on Grandy Lake land boosted the risks by increasing runoff and making the property more vulnerable to landslides.
A message seeking comment from Grandy Lake was not immediately returned Monday.
Tim Ward, who was inside his home when the slide swept it across the valley, lost his wife of 38 years, Brandy.
“Justice? That’s for the Lord to decide,” he said Monday of the settlement. “But I’ll tell you the amount of money speaks volumes. This was no mistake. This was not neglect or an accident.”
Deborah Durnell-Farnes, who lost her husband, Tom, was among the first plaintiffs and is credited for spearheading the lawsuit.
After court adjourned Monday, she stood hugging a weeping Jonielle Spillers, whose husband, Billy, and their children, Kaylee, 5, and Brooke, 2, and her son, Jovon Mangual, 13, were killed.
“This must never happen again. Hopefully, that lesson has been learned,” Durnell-Farnes said.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement Monday saying the “settlement of the legal chapter of this tragedy represents a fair resolution for all parties.”