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November 28, 2014

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Unclear if Washington landslide lawsuits could win

Image

AP

A worker uses a chain saw at the scene of a deadly mudslide that covers the road, Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in Oso, Wash.

SEATTLE — Despite years of prior warnings that a Washington state hillside could collapse, it's not clear any government agencies will face liability in a court of law.

Some victims of the slide that killed at least 30 people northeast of Seattle last month said they didn't know about the danger and are interested in suing. Such cases can be tough to win.

Generally, municipalities in Washington state are not liable for landslide damages except in narrow circumstances, such as if an agency specifically tells the residents they're safe before a slide, or if an agency takes it upon itself to fix a hazard but actually makes the danger worse.

Another option might be to sue the logging company that clear-cut a small section of the plateau above the hillside, though it's unclear whether that logging could have helped cause the slide.

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