The site of the Oso mudslide, as it appeared in May 2014, two months after the event.

The site of the Oso mudslide, as it appeared in May 2014, two months after the event.

Another delay in the civil trial for the deadly Oso mudslide

OSO — A civil trial to explore whether anyone should be held responsible for the deadly Oso mudslide has again been delayed, this time so experts can adequately digest the results of drilling and other recent research aimed at finding hard evidence that may explain why the hill fell.

The trial originally was set for fall 2015, but was rescheduled for June to allow more time for the parties to prepare.

Now, there will be no mudslide trial before mid-to-late September.

King County Superior Court Judge Roger Rogoff changed the schedule in a Feb. 18 ruling that came after lawyers for Snohomish County, the state of Washington, and a timber company all said more time is necessary.

The delay was opposed by lawyers representing the families of the 43 people who were killed and dozens of others who were injured in March 2014 when a wall of mud and trees raced across the Stillaguamish River valley.

“It cannot be underscored more deeply at this stage that Plaintiffs deserve their day in court,” the lawyers wrote. “The trauma of survivors and surviving family members endures while this case is prolonged and remains unresolved.”

Attorneys for the state and county asked for more time to consider the results of drilling that state experts conducted over the past year in an effort to better understand the geology of the hillside and how water moved through the ground.

The results still are being analyzed, but the work is raising questions about some widely held theories, including the suggestion that the primary reason the hill fell was because logging over the years sent more water percolating into the area that collapsed, according to court papers. Other independent scientific examinations of the slide paint a more complex picture, including signs that similar events repeatedly have occurred in that valley since Ice Age.

“The State’s drilling revealed important, previously unknown information, some of which still is being evaluated in laboratories across the West,” the county’s lawyers wrote. “Many of the geological, geotechnical, and hydrological experts have revised or are in the process of revising their opinions, including many of plaintiffs’ experts.”

Along with their pleadings, state attorneys filed a lengthy report that contains preliminary opinions from their experts, who note that studies of the hillside prior to the 2014 disaster largely were based on educated assumptions, not hard evidence.

“The analysis of what contributed to the Oso landslide, and just as importantly what factors did not contribute, is not surprisingly an incredibly complex analysis requiring a multidisciplinary team to fully evaluate the event,” wrote Rene Tomisser, senior counsel for the state attorney general’s office.

Judge Rogoff wrote that the schedule for bringing the case to trial always has been ambitious and the lawyers have been working hard.

“While this Court might quarrel with whether any litigation can provide ‘closure’ for folks who have tragically lost their families, their homes, and their bearings, the Court certainly understands Plaintiffs’ desire to have a trial that seeks to answer many of the questions they harbor as a result of this tragedy,” Rogoff wrote.

He said that delaying the trial is the correct decision now, but there will be no further continuances “absent the most extraordinary circumstances.”

Scott North: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @snorthnews.

Talk to us

More in Local News

King County map logo
Tribal members dance to start an assemble on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day Friday evening at Tulalip Gathering Hall in Tulalip, Washington on September 30, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
‘Still here’: Tulalip boarding school descendants celebrate resilience

On Orange Shirt Day, a national day of remembrance, the Tulalip Tribes honored those who suffered due to violent cultural suppression.

Councilmember Megan Dunn, left, stands next to County Executive Dave Somers as he presents his 2023 budget proposal to her, Councilmember Nate Nehring and Councilmember Sam Low. (Snohomish County)
As County Council begins budget talks, here’s how you can weigh in.

Department heads will make their pitches in the next few days. Residents will get a say at a forum and two hearings this month

Representative Rick Larsen speaks at the March For Our Lives rally on Saturday, June 11, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Larsen to hold community meeting in Everett on Monday

The veteran Democratic lawmaker will address recent legislation passed by Congress and other topics.

Everett gets state Auditor’s Office stewardship award

State Auditor Pat McCarthy presented the award during the most recent Everett City Council meeting.

(Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest - US Forest Service)
U.S. 2 reopens east of Index as Bolt Creek wildfire moves north

The highway was blocked off earlier this week as the fire spread.

FILE - Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., speaks during a news conference the vote to codify Roe v. Wade, in this May 5, 2022 file photo on Capitol Hill in Washington. Murray is one of the U.S. Senate's most powerful members and seeking a sixth term. She is being challenged by Tiffany Smiley, a Republican from Pasco, Wash. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
Providence continues to face questions about hospital debt collection

The hospital group has pushed back against the notion that Providence “intentionally takes advantage of those who are vulnerable.”

Vehicles exiting I-5 southbound begin to turn left into the eastbound lanes of 164th Street Southwest on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Traffic backups on 164th Street near I-5 could see relief soon

The county and state are implementing a new traffic signal system that synchronizes the corridor and adjusts to demand.

Anthony Christie with his son (Family photo)
‘Senseless’: Mom sues state DOC after son’s suicide at Monroe prison

The lawsuit alleges systemic failures at the Monroe Correctional Complex led to Anthony Christie’s death in 2019.

Most Read