A Rant – The Bidding Starts at $60 Million (and other things I just don’t get about mega-lawsuits)

Here we are, only days after the tragic collapse of an Indiana State Fair stage that has now claimed six lives and injured dozens more. The crumpled heap of metal and tarps and lights still lay on the infield of the Fairgrounds’ dirt track. The memorial of flowers still grows just outside the Grandstand’s entrance gates. The 2011 Indiana State Fair still has two days of Midway and livestock and deep-fried Kool-Aid to deal with before wrapping it up till next year.

Yep, we’re really not that far past the tragedy yet. But the first of the lawsuits about the collapse have already started to roll in. One asks for $60 million. That’s a whole lotta dough. It makes me wonder what the family will do with it if it is awarded to them. I doubt the pain of the death will vanish. Who knows, maybe it helps.

I just don’t understand mega-lawsuits like this. I never have. I think they harm free enterprise and society. I feel like they do little to help the family’s grieving process, and it’s done by selling out the dead.

Where did the $60 million number come from? Was $1 million not enough? Why not $10 million?

We don’t even know what happened yet. No cause has been determined. No investigation has been completed. (In fact, one of the lawsuits promises to slow that process by asking the heap to remain untouched for now.) There is no way to know who, if anybody other than Mother Nature, is responsible for what happened. No one yet to accurately blame.

But the lawsuits come anyway. They don’t seem to care who is really to blame. They’ll just blame everybody. And ask for their money. Lots and lots of it.

Some insurance companies will have to write some large checks. The taxpayers will surely foot big chunks of the bill. A business or two may cease to exist.

The bidding opened at $60 million. That’s just the starting point. Over the next several months we will see a lot more lawsuits filed. Some will ask for more. Some will ask for less.

How much is really needed? Cover hospital bills? Sure. Cover final expenses? Yep. Cover time away from work? Of course.

But how do you calculate how much more is needed? How much is all this really worth? Why $60 million?

I’ve never had a lawyer knock on my door and say, “I’m sorry about your recent tragedy. I can make you very rich from it, though.” I never want to. But if something like this did happen to me, I’d hope I could tell the lawyer to go to hell. It’d be hard to, in the face of riches, I’m sure. But I’d hope I could keep my resolve.

Pay my costs and throw in a little extra for the trouble, and allow me to live the rest of my life without the guilt of feeling like I sold out my loved one’s death. That’s how I’d like to think I’d handle it. I never want to know.

Am I wrong, here?

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