Both the Senate (SB 5163) and House (HB 1135) versions of the wrongful death bills have been passed out of their respective policy committees and have now also been heard in the fiscal committees (the House bill was heard in Appropriations earlier this week; the Senate bill was heard in the Committee on Ways & Means earlier this month).

The Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) continues to fight against expanded wrongful death tort liability as a matter of fairness and fiscal responsibility: WSAC has never opposed the inherent policy behind wrongful death claims; these stories are tragic and heartbreaking, and counties should be liable when responsible.

We also believe that counties should pay to the extent they are liable, but they should not pay all of a claim where they are only partially (often, relatively minorly) at fault. We are likewise concerned about the retroactive application: it is one thing to change the law going forward, but it is quite another to open the counties up to liability for past claims.

Retroactivity makes it extraordinarily difficult for counties to assess risk and plan budgets. We will continue to work to get versions of these bills that fix some of the historic policy problems addressed by the bills but also fix some of the fiscal challenges posed for local government.


Mike Hoover

Mike Hoover is an attorney with over 25 years of experience working in state and local governmental affairs. Mike next served as Chief Legal Counsel to the King County Council before starting his own public affairs practice in 2018. He currently works with WSAC on policy issues pertaining to liability and finance.