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Could State Lawmakers Reform Wrongful Death Claims for Parents?

The House Judiciary Committee in Olympia is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill reforming wrongful death claims for parents. (Steve Voght/Flickr)
The House Judiciary Committee in Olympia is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a bill reforming wrongful death claims for parents. (Steve Voght/Flickr)
January 24, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington is one of only three states where the parents of children age 18 and older can't file a wrongful death claim unless they prove financial dependence on their children.

Bills in the state's House and Senate aim to change that.

In 2016, Kara Caicedo's sister went to the hospital with signs of a heart attack, but Caicedo says her sister went untreated for 45 minutes before falling into cardiac arrest and dying.

Yet Caicedo's mother couldn't file a wrongful death suit because she didn't rely on her daughter financially.

Caicedo says that meant no one could expose what she says was the hospital staff's negligence.

"There's no amount of money that would ever make it OK what happened, and there's no amount of money that we wouldn't instantly regret because you can't put a monetary value on her life, but it's about holding them accountable," she states.

Opponents of House Bill 2262 and Senate Bill 6015 say it will lead to frivolous lawsuits and cost insurance companies too much.

However, an analysis by the Washington State Association for Justice has found the costs to change this law have been significantly inflated in previous legislative attempts.

Committees in the House and Senate are scheduled to vote on these bills Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

Joel Rosas, who testified in front of the Senate Law and Justice Committee last week, also says he lost his sister to medical negligence.

Rosas says his sister was overprescribed methadone at a pain clinic and died, but his family was unable to get justice.

"I feel like everyone needs to be held for their actions," he stresses.

The doctor who prescribed Rosas' methadone has had his medical license suspended and his pain clinics are under investigation amid allegations the clinics contributed to the deaths of 18 patients. He has not been charged with a crime.

Many families have testified in front of the State Legislature on how this law has hurt them. Caicedo says these families only hope someone else doesn't have to experience their pain.

"The families that are fighting for this, they don't even have the options to go back and file a lawsuit at this point, but they're still fighting for it," she states.

The law also bars parents who are in other countries from seeking legal action. The House and Senate bills would change this portion as well.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA