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Photo: Dinh Group v. Ride the Ducks Trial Exhibit 4 page 2
Photo: Dinh Group v. Ride the Ducks Trial Exhibit 4 page 2

By Karen Koehler

Our state’s Wrongful Death bill was completely overhauled today in a landslide vote by the legislature.

After five international students were killed in the Ride the Ducks Aurora Bridge crash, the community was upset to learn that the claims of the students over the age of 18 who did not have dependents (children) was strictly limited because of an ancient law whose roots were traced to racist rationale.  Washington was one of only three states to still have wrongful death laws like this on the books.

Kim HaRam through former counsel attempted to challenge the law and brought claims for destruction of the parent child relationship and her pain and suffering as she survived the crash and did not die for several days.  Ride the Ducks Seattle challenged the lawsuit and won in Federal Court – the parents were not allowed to bring those claims.  This situation created an uproar by concerned citizens who had no idea our laws discriminated in such a way:  you send your adult child to college in Seattle, they are killed because of negligence, and your family has no right to sue.  Only the estate can sue for the cold calculation of what would have been earned by the person minus what they would have spent.

During the Ride the Ducks Trial, the Kim parents were not allowed to testify about anything other than their daughter’s intellectual and humanitarian interests insofar as they impacted her future employment plans.  They could not talk about their love and the holes in their hearts that will never heal.

Revisions to the Wrongful Act made their way through the legislature for two years, sparked and propelled largely by outrage over Washington’s treatment of the international students who died in the Ride the Ducks crash.  Then today on April 15, 2019, the last step needed was completed and the legislature finally voted to change this wretched 100 year old law.  It now recognizes the dignity and worth of single adults:

·       If a single person over the age of 18 without dependents is killed due to the negligence of others, their estate may recover for their pain and suffering;

·       Their parents may recover for destruction of the parent-child relationship;

·       The family members are not barred from recovery because they reside in another country.

The full act passed is here and here:

It is retroactive.

Breaking news stories can be found here and here

We would like to acknowledge Larry Shannon for his tireless efforts in championing this bill along with the Washington State Association for Justice who made this work possible.  This includes WSAJ’s amazing coalition of parents who have suffered the ultimate loss, and concerned citizens. You can read more about WSAJ’s efforts (spanning decades) and this incredible achievement at WSAJ’s Facebook page. Here is the text from their announcement:

WSAJ is so thrilled to announce that we successfully passed Senate Bill 5163, our bill to reform the state’s unjust wrongful death law. This is one of the most important laws WSAJ has championed in decades.

We could have not done this without our WSAJ lobbying team (Larry Shannon, Michael Temple and Rebecca Johnson), WSAJ leadership (WSAJ President Ann Rosato and ED Liz Berry) and most importantly, our coalition of families who were relentless in fighting for their children: Jeff and Dolly Chale for their daughter Katie; Susan and Craig Cyr for their son Spencer; Rhonda and Wayne Ellis for their son Josh, daughter-in-law Vanessa, grandson baby Hudson; Deanna and Alan Hogue for their son Bradley Hogue; Cindy and Sarah Locke for their daughter and sister Emily Locke; Gerry and Bonnie Gibson for their son Greg; Paul and Loli Mahoney for their daughter Ella; Joel Rosas for his sister Mallory; Rhonda Nissen and Sarah Caicedo for their daughter and sister Tia.