By Tom James
OLYMPIA – Four years after a fatal Seattle crash, the Washington Senate approved an update to parts of the state’s wrongful death law on March 5.
The proposal would remove requirements that, after an accidental death in the state, family members must live in the United States and be economically dependent on the victim to be able to file a wrongful death claim here.
The law dates to 1909.
A fatal 2015 crash in Seattle drew attention to the law, when an amphibious “Ride the Ducks” tourist vehicle veered into oncoming traffic, killing five and injuring 69 when it struck a tour bus full of foreign students. At least one family of a victim in the crash later challenged the law, calling it discriminatory.
Lawmakers approved the proposal on a 30-17 vote, sending it to the state House.
In debate before the vote, the bill’s sponsor said the provision stemmed from efforts by business interests at the beginning of the 20th century to block claims made by the families of Chinese miners killed in workplace accidents.
“This law has its roots in racist origins,” said Sen. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle.
State documents date the provision in the law to 1909.