If Charles Dickens were to come back to earth, I’ve got a great novel idea for him because let me tell you, the plight of the French peasantry has nothing on these folks.
As we’ve been covering here at ThePopTort, the horrendous situation created by Indiana’s $5 million overall incident “cap” on damages is finally hitting home. Yesterday, Ken Feinberg, who has done such a bang up job for victims of the Gulf oil spill on behalf of BP (not really), and who was tapped to do the same on behalf of the state for victims of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, announced yesterday that the families of the seven people killed will get $300,000. And get this (not that we should be surprised). Just as he did for BP, Feinberg is pressuring these families to sign quickly and requiring a complete liability release, so if they take this paltry sum, these families can’t even challenge the cap in court:
If families and victims agree to the payments, they wouldn't be allowed to sue the state. Indiana law caps the state's liability at $5 million, and some victims' families have already filed lawsuits challenging that limit. The offers must be accepted or rejected by Monday....
Attorney Mario Massillamany said his client Lisa Hite suffered head injuries and a fractured heel but was offered only about $7,000. Her medical bills are already six times that amount, let alone her lost wages and future bills.
Plus they offered "$500,000 to a 17-year-old boy who suffered full-body paralysis." Yet Indiana isn’t alone in its cruelty. On Monday a Philadelphia area jury awarded $14 million to a young women who had to have her leg amputated while still a high school student, when a school bus plowed into a group a students. But Pennsylvania has a $500,000 liability cap for municipalities and school districts, so the judge is going to have the ignore the jury (whose award included $3 million so she can get things like prosthetics) and reduce the award to the cap – if she’s lucky. As AP writes, like Indiana’s law,
The $500,000 cap applies to all awards stemming from a single incident. And seven others have sued over injuries from the crash. If the cap is upheld, Zauflik could be left to share the $500,000 with any others who win damage awards.
Meanwhile, yesterday a big settlement was announced for the families of those 29 miners killed last year in the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia. The company, now owned by Alpha, will pay $46.5 million to the families of those killed and to the two co-workers who lived. That’s $1.5 million per family. The company will also “spend $80 million to boost safety in all of its underground mines and set up a $48 million fund for mining-safety and health research. Alpha Natural Resources also agreed to pay $34.8 million in fines and fees that Massey Energy owed to the Mine Safety and Health Administration.”
“The settlement was bitterly criticized by some of the dead men's relatives, who said they won't be satisfied until charges are filed against those they consider responsible for the catastrophe, the nation's deadliest mine accident in 40 years.
Gary Quarles, whose son Gary Wayne Quarles died in the disaster, said: "I want to hear names, and I want to know what they're going to be charged for. Today would have been a fine day for them to have told us.” The families still want criminal prosecutions.
Yes, the settlement begs for more. But compared to victims of disasters caused by government entities, at least they’ve left the starting gate.