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Originally published April 19, 2014 at 6:59 PM | Page modified April 20, 2014 at 12:16 AM

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First mudslide claims filed; more likely, lawyer says

The attorney who filed $3.5 million in claims on behalf of a woman whose husband was killed in the March 22 Oso mudslide said more claims may be coming from families that lost homes or loves ones.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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The attorney who filed $3.5 million in claims on behalf of a woman whose husband was killed in the March 22 Oso mudslide said she’s spoken to other families who lost homes or loved ones in the slide, and additional claims may be forthcoming.

“There could be ... It’s still very early,” Seattle attorney Corrie Yackulic said Saturday. “These people are hurting.”

Yackulic on Friday filed claims — the precursor to a lawsuit — against Snohomish County and the state Department of Natural Resources on behalf of Deborah Durnell, 50, whose husband, Thomas Durnell, 65, is one of 39 people known to have perished in the slide.

Four more people are still listed as missing.

Thomas Durnell, a retiree, was alone at home when the slide hit on a Saturday morning. His wife was at work at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, where she is a certified nursing assistant.

The claims allege that state officials violated their own regulations and “ignored the best available science” by allowing clear-cutting in 2004 in the area where the slide occurred.

The Durnells purchased their home in 2011 and were given no information about previous slides, or the continuing danger of slides in the area, Yackulic said.

The claim lists 20 people who may have information about the matter, including Snohomish County Executive John Lovick; the county’s emergency-management director, John Pennington; state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark; and former lands commissioner Doug Sutherland.

Yackulic said at this point, her client is seeking information on what may have led to the mudslide.

“She really wants to understand how this could have happened ... how this area could have been developed with the knowledge that some people had that this was a historic slide zone.”

Yackulic said a lawsuit can be brought 60 days after a claim is filed.

A Seattle Times article this month documented that county officials had been concerned in 2004 that a landslide in the area could “threaten life and property.”

The county considered buying up and emptying property in the Steelhead Drive area — wiped out in the slide — but decided instead to stabilize the base of the slope and leave residents where they were.

No response was available from state or county officials Saturday on allegations raised in the claims filed Friday.

Jason Cummings, Snohomish County’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney, told The (Everett) Herald: “The claim has just come in and we’re sitting down to evaluate it.”

Goldmark said last week it’s too early to know what caused the mudslide.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222; jbroom@seattletimes.com



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