WA Case Update: The Landslide Brought it Down

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: Are lumber harvesters strictly liable for harm caused by landslides from a tree harvesting operation? Read on to see how the Washington Court of Appeals ruled on this salient question.

Claims Pointer: The Pacific Northwest is known for wet weather. In recent weeks, hazardous conditions such as mudslides, flooding, and washouts have occurred due to large amounts of rain. In this case, the Court of Appeals held that clearcutting on a steep slope above residential property is not an abnormally dangerous activity that merits strict liability. In other words, the Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs must plead and prove that a person was negligent in such claims.

Hurley v. Campbell Menasha, LLC, No. 71430-9-I, Court of Appeals of Washington, Division I (published August 7, 2014).

On January 7, 2009, a heavy rainstorm bowled across Western Washington dropping huge amounts of rain. Over 1,500 landslides resulted from the storm in Washington. This case arose out of damage to a number of homes caused by three landslides near Glenoma, Washington. The landowners (collectively “the plaintiffs”) in this area filed a suit against a dozen companies who were involved in logging operations on the slopes above and around the slides. Among these companies were Zepp Logging (Zepp) and Menasha Forest Products Corporation (Menasha).

The plaintiffs alleged a number of claims including negligence, nuisance, trespass, and strict liability against the several defendants, including Menasha and Zepp. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the strict liability claim and the trial court granted the motion. Menasha moved for summary judgment to dismiss the nuisance and trespass claims and Zepp joined the motion. The trial court granted the motion, dismissing the claims. Zepp also filed a motion for summary judgment on the negligence claim, which the trial court granted.

The trial was bifurcated (split) to address claims specific to each slide. The...

To View the Full Resource, Subscribe or Log In