Judge limits extent of claims in Oso mudslide litigation

OSO — A King County judge continues to weigh what claims can be brought in a 2016 civil trial that will explore whether anyone should be held responsible for the deadly Oso mudslide.

King County Superior Court Judge Roger Rogoff on Aug. 20 ruled that attorneys for the people harmed by the slide won’t be able to claim the state and Snohomish County had special duties to protect people living in the Steelhead Haven neighborhood.

The judge’s ruling specifically bars claims about the state’s alleged mishandling of forest practices regulations and the county’s implementation of the state Growth Management Act.

Claims about the county’s adoption of a flood hazard management plan will be allowed, the judge ruled, but he added that his earlier ruling establishing boundaries on the county liability related to flood control “significantly limits” what can be argued.

Rosoff also made clear that his decision so far in no way bars the people harmed by the slide from arguing under different legal theories that the state or county remain liable for their actions and decisions.

Trial in the case is now set for June 2016, with the parties already listing hundreds of potential witnesses and dozens of experts. The case was to have been heard in October, but the state asked for time to conduct drilling and monitoring on the hill to gather and analyze data about how the site’s geology interacts with groundwater.

Forty-three people died and dozens of homes were destroyed on March 22, 2014, when the hill collapsed.

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