Law in Contemporary Society
Just a couple of thoughts about last weeks reading...

So in response to the 9/11 attacks and the now (the VT killings), the government (at various levels) has acted to create funds of wealth to compensate those who were harmed. The (spoken) idea being that litigation would be difficult considering the circumstances. This (spoken) approach to compensation acknowledges that litigation is brutal business. At the very least, it acknowledges that it is undesirable to litigate when the victim's families are in distress.

Isn't most tort litigation under distress? So the stress of the tort system is ok if your Mother, trapped in her car, drowns in mud, but not okay if you've lost family members in 9/11?

"Socialism for the rich and Capitalism for the poor..."

I'm not implying that the victims of the above atrocities are rich, but that those scenarios threatened the rich... with great problems... from the streets.

Maybe we should move to a universal tort system... like New Zealand? It is sad that anyone should have to litigate for wrongful death.

Sorry, if this is either just an explicit recap of last class or if it is just way off base.

-- JosephMacias - 19 Apr 2008

Maybe I'm wrong, but each time the U.S. government responds as it did in 9/11, isn't that an unofficial New Zealand-like compromise? If the pendulum keeps moving in this direction, maybe we'll gradually inch our way toward an eclipse of the tort system, but it's going to take a lot more tragedies to build general tolerance for this approach. How ironic.

-- BarbPitman - 20 Apr 2008

I'm not sure the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund was created merely to save grieving families from the stress of litigation. Quite the opposite, I think it was to save the government and the airline industry from crushing liability. Don't get me wrong, I do think there are good economic reasons for reforming the tort system. I also agree that it is sad for grieving families to have to litigate wrongful death suits, but I don't think its the strongest argument for tort reform.

Also, unlike the 9/11 compensation fund, the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (for victims of the VT incident) was not government funded, and victims' families could take the money without agreeing not to sue. As far as I know, the 9/11 Victims' Compensation Fund is a unique example. I certainly don't think the pendulum is moving in that direction, as Barb suggests.

-- JuliaS - 20 Apr 2008

As an outsider, I saw - as Julia alludes - the 9/11 memorial fund as an effort by the government to control rather than compensate. I think of all those individuals who rushed towards ground zero to help, not in uniform, just in the neighborhood, who have since come down with serious illness as a result. If I remember correctly, access to the fund was routinely denied to these individuals and to others whose conditions appeared late or in unexpected ways.

Seems like the real issue is that we need (1) healthcare for everyone regardless of how they were injured and (2) one set of rules for wrongful death compensation.

Government bailouts of industries have always struck me as odd. If you mess up bad enough, the government funds you until you can tread water again. Seems to reward stupid decisions instead of swimming lessons.

-- AdamCarlis - 20 Apr 2008

"I think it was to save the government and the airline industry from crushing liability"

Julia, everything starts somewhere, and my instinct tells me that what you said above is the reason we will (I think) see the pendulum move the direction that 9/11 nudged it, but it will take a long time, perhaps leading some to assume there is no pendulum movement. It's anybody's guess, though, as to whether government intervention will trickle down to tragedies where the number of victims can be counted on one hand.

-- BarbPitman - 20 Apr 2008


I think the fund was set up generally to curb mass tort litigation given the amount of damage, number of people and the rare level of visibility. There isn't much high profile discussion of all the various mid-to-low level people that are entrenched in litigation at the moment.

While I can't speak on motivations for the fund with any authority, it seems to fall somewhere between reducing liability and providing for victims families. I don't think the disparity in compensation, based on life expectancy and loss of future income, was the best resolution. It makes sense perhaps when comparing at 75 year old retiree to a 35 working mother. However, the million dollar difference between a stock broker and firefighter's compensation (the latter's family receiving less) doesn't seem quite right.

-- MiaWhite - 20 Apr 2008

Sadly (and frustrating to say), firefighters' meager salaries would make most people gasp. It's a shame, but given the income range and the fact that firefighters often retire at a younger-than-average age (the standard government retirement plan of which I'm aware starts at age 55), the average firefighter's income projected out over a lifetime isn't much. Speaking of doing good for the community -- maybe my experience in Indiana is unrepresentative of nation-wide statistics, but public servants like firefighters and police officers could use a salary boost.

-- BarbPitman - 20 Apr 2008



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r9 - 07 Jan 2010 - 22:33:54 - IanSullivan
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