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Six Months After Oso Landslide, Lawsuit, Legal Claims Ongoing

AP Photo/Washington State Dept of Transportation
File - This March 22, 2014 file photo, made available by the Washington State Dept. of Transportation, shows a view of the damage from the March 22, 2014 mudslide in Oso, Washington.

Six months ago Monday, forty-three people lost their lives in the Oso landslide. So far, nearly 60 legal claims have been filed against the state of Washington stemming from the slide.

Attorney Karen Willie says a half-year later a “deep wound” remains from Oso. I spoke with her at 10:37a.m., the exact-six month anniversary.

“This moment is when this horror of mud raced across Steelhead Drive,” Willie said.

The wall of mud and debris ripped through an idyllic riverfront subdivision, destroying everything in its path. It would take four months to recover the last of the 43 victims.

Willie represents three families who lost loved ones in the slide and three more who lost their property. She believes public agencies need to be held to account.

“This should never have happened, and it should never, ever happen again,” Willie said.

The state and Snohomish County argue in legal filings that the slide was an act of God. So far, only one actual lawsuit has been filed. Willie raises the specter of a master settlement involving all of the families and a mediator.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.