NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Haram Kim, 21, of South Korea, was one of five North Seattle College students killed last September in Seattle, when a Ride the Ducks boat slammed into a charter bus carrying the students. A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that a neglected and defective left front axle on the duck boat caused the deadly crash.
Kim’s parents are now trying to sue Ride the Ducks, but the tour company is citing a century-old Washington law in an effort to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit. The law requires that parents bringing wrongful death suits be residents of the United States at the time of their child’s death. The Kims are challenging the law on the grounds that it restricts the rights of certain people based on their national origin, a protected class under Washington’s and the U.S. constitutions, and was based on anti-Asian racism in the 1900s.
“It is remarkable that such an unconstitutional statutory scheme has survived into the 21st century, and Washington is the only state in which such a scheme exists,” the family’s challenge reads.
A University of Washington (UW) law professor and constitutional law expert said the law will likely survive a challenge to its constitutionality.
“In the late 19th and early 20th century, there was a great deal of racism in Washington state, particularly against Asians, but there really is not any evidence that I can tell that was related to this particular amendment,” said Hugh Spitzer.
“To have this tragedy compounded by a law, on its face, is just unfair for some people simply because where they live,” said William Schroeder, the attorney representing the Kims.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office has sided with Ride the Ducks on the issue, but Schroeder said the statute is unconstitutional and they plan to fight it in court in September.