Kennewick family celebrates governor’s signing of wrongful death bill

Kennewick family celebrates governor’s signing of wrongful death bill
Rhonda Nissen poses with Governor Inslee after signing of wrongful death bill. 

A Kennewick family has been dealing with the loss of their daughter and sister since October of 2016. A recent legislative event will make that grieving process just a little bit easier.

Last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5163 into law. The wrongful death bill expands who is qualified to seek damages in the even to the wrongful death of a loved one, changing a over century-old clause.

“It will help in some small measure the families who’ve lost a sibling or child to receive justice,” said Gov. Inslee at the signing. “I think it’s particularly in the spirit of Washington state that believes in tolerance, diversity and respecting humanity of all people at all times.”

For Shawna and Rhonda Nissen, the signing of this bill was the culmination of a multiple year-long battle for their family.

“It’s hard to put into words,” said Rhonda, whose daughter Tia died from a heart attack at the age of 36. They believe her death could have been prevented if handled differently by hospital workers. However, at the time the family was unable to seek damages or get questions answered because they were not dependents of Tia.

A bill that would change those standards, similar to SB 5163, was proposed in the state legislature last year but failed to move forward. It was inspired in part by the “Ride the Ducks” tour bus that crashed in Seattle in 2015, killing five foreign students.

“When she called and said it was signed I felt like I could let so much anger go,” said Shawna, Tia’s sister. “It wasn’t just a fight for my sister and these amazing families but a fight for every parent with an adult child in the state.”

Now, Rhonda said she’ll be able to focus on other ways of trying to moving forward. It doesn’t change the fact that she lost a child.

“I’ve been fighting this for two years and it’s given me something to fight for and something to keep me going, and now the grief is hitting really hard,” she said. “The next thing is to find myself a grief counselor and try to start living my life and also finding somebody that can help us with keeping the hospital and the doctor involved accountable.”

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