March 15, 2019

State Immunity and Natural Disasters: A Sliding Scale of Landslide Liability

Maris J. Jager

In 2014, a major landslide moved approximately 18 million tons of sand, clay, and sediment through more than a half mile area in Oso, Washington. The slide destroyed more than 40 homes and structures, dammed the North Fork Stillaguamish River, closed State Highway 530 for over two months, and caused 43 fatalities. Preliminary assessments of the financial impact of the Oso landslide estimate that the cost of rebuilding Highway 530 will exceed $38 million, while the total cost of emergency operations following the slide reached approximately $67 million by June 2015. These estimates do not include the costs of lost homes, property, livelihoods, and lives.

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