Washington changes its racist Wrongful Death Law: a little too late
On September 24, 2015 - beautiful inside and out HaRam Kim was injured in the Ride the Ducks Aurora Bridge crash. She was taken to Harborview where she survived for several days. Just long enough for her loving family to fly from Korea to see her one last time.
In the Ride the Ducks trial - HaRam’s parents were not allowed to tell the jury how much they loved their daughter, how much she suffered before dying, how profoundly her death had impacted the family. The old wrongful death law did not recognize HaRam’s life as being anything other than the brutal mathematical equation of what she would have earned minus what should would have spent. Earlier in the case before our firm was involved, Ride the Ducks Seattle successfully had her parents’ claims for loss of love care and affection thrown out of court because they lived in Korea not the U.S.
Through their grief, the Kims wrote letters and spoke to legislators. Their co-counsel Dan Williams helped to make sure their voices were heard - if not in the courtroom then at least in the community. Their tragedy ignited a citizen call to action - to fix these wretched out of date laws.
What then followed was an effort by a coalition of families who shared their stories with the state house and senate. WSAJ notes: 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.
Today the Legislature fixed the law. In a landslide vote - the Wrongful Death Bill was amended to strike the requirement that family survivors had to live in the U.S. It also and just as profoundly removed the age limitation that for parents to recover for the loss of a child that person must be 18 or under.
A special thanks to Larry Shannon - director of public affairs for the Washington State Association of Justice who championed this bill along with the WSAJ staff and family coalition members.