Old, discriminatory law used to block wrongful death lawsuit in fatal duck boat crash

Haram Kim was one of five people killed when a Seattle tourist vehicle collided with a bus last September.

21-year-old Haram Kim, an international student from South Korea, was one of five people killed when a popular duck boat tourist vehicle collided with a tour bus last September in Seattle. Her parents are now trying to sue Ride the Ducks, the operators responsible for the fatal crash, but the tour company is citing a racist, discriminatory century-old Washington law in an effort to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit.

Parents of student killed in 'Ride the Ducks' crash say company is trying to block suit

Kim, a student at North Seattle College, suffered fatal injuries from the impact after a Ride the Ducks boat slammed into a charter bus. 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, Soon Won Kim and Ju Hee Jeong, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Ride the Ducks, but the company says that a 100-year-old Washington statute bars the couple from seeking damages because they were not financially dependent on their daughter and don't live in the United States.

An amendment to Washington's wrongful death law added in 1909 -- during a period when the region was, let's be real, exceptionally hostile to Asians -- allows only parents "who are residents within the United States" at the time of the death to claim damages. That amendment is still on the books, and works in Ride the Ducks' favor.

In a motion to dismiss the parents' lawsuit against the company, Ride the Ducks argued "the parents do not qualify as statutory beneficiaries." In a separate letter, the company said it would refuse to cover anything beyond medical and burial costs and a nominal amount representing the estate.

"We are simply following the laws that govern these sorts of actions," Pat Buchanan, attorney for Ride the Ducks, said in a statement to The Stranger. I'm sure the authors of this old-ass racist law would be proud.

William Schroeder, the attorney representing Kim's parents, says the antiquated statute is unjust and plan to challenge its constitutionality in federal court. They believe it violates both the state constitution and the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. A hearing in the Kim family's case is scheduled for September.

Meanwhile, now nine months after the crash, Kim's parents tell Q13 News that no one from Ride the Ducks has directly contacted them with an apology for their daughter's death.

More here: Ride the Ducks Cites "Discriminatory" Law to Deny Relief to Families of Crash Victims


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