The Dangers of Caps on Damages Realized in Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse
There was a recent story in the Chicago Tribune on October 7, 2011 indicating that 50 claims have been filed resulting from last summer’s tragic stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair. Long ago, the Indiana legislature fell victim to the rhetoric of the insurance industry and passed caps on the amount of damages that an injured party can receive in a lawsuit. As a result of this legislation there will be a cap of $5,000,000 to be shared by all of the claimants that were injured as a result of this horrible and entirely avoidable event.
Seven people were killed in this incident. Over 40 more were injured. Many of those victims will likely never recover from their injuries and require medical care for the rest of their lives. All of them must be compensated from the same pool of money. How is this fair? What if the wind had blown just a little bit differently and 100 more were hurt? What if 22 people had died, like at the E2 nightclub tragedy in Chicago in 2002? Well in Indiana, the result would be more people sharing off 0f the same limited damage cap. The “one-size-fits-all” approach adopted in Indiana simply does not work. Ironically, one of the early proponents of damage caps legislation in Indiana, insurance lobbyist Frank Cornelius, has strongly repudiated the results of his own work when he fell victim to a series of medical mishaps and was grossly under compensated as a result of the cap on damages. Fortunately, the consumer has prevailed in Illinois and we have so far been able to dodge the insurance and business fueled efforts at limiting caps on damages. This is a fight that will continue into the future and the tragedy at the Indiana State Fair will become further evidence of exactly how cruel and unfair caps are for the victims.
There is a terrific blog post from The Pop Tort that discusses this issue if you are interested in reading more.