Assault with a Deadly Weapon, aka a Child’s Wild Pitch

Baseball, from Flickr user theseanster93, licensed via Creative Commons

Can we not step out of our house without worrying about being mauled in the face by an errant baseball?  This is a fear that must haunt Ms. Elizabeth Lloyd, a Manchester Township citizen in New Jersey.  Ms. Lloyd is suing Matthew Migliaccio, a thirteen year old Little League player, for throwing a baseball that hit her in the face while young Matthew was warming up his pitcher.  Elizabeth Lloyd was simply minding her own business at a picnic table right outside of a fenced in baseball field, when Matthew Migliaccio “intentionally” threw the baseball that hit her in the face.  Matthew is now faced with a lawsuit with over $150,000 in damages to cover Ms. Lloyd’s medical bills and any suffering Matthew’s throw may have caused.
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“Transformers 3″ Extra Awarded $18.5 Million for On-Set Accident

X Ray, by Flickr user "owen.iverson", licensed via Creative Commons.A young aspiring actress who was disabled permanently in an on-set accident for the movie “Transformers 3″ has been awarded $18.5 million in tort.  In 2010, Gabriela Cedillo was acting as an extra in the movie and her particular part was during a stunt scene set on a freeway.  The producers had about 80 extras driving cars (their own cars, actually), with the main filmed action being an elaborate explosion and flinging of props/characters in whatever happens at that moment in the movie.  If you’ve never seen any of the Transformers series, know that explosions and stunts and general shock-and-awe forms the bulk of the plot.  The day before the accident, the filmmakers had tried and failed at the same stunt.  Cedillo’s lawsuit claimed that the day of, shoddy welding had caused a bracket to snap and an extremely taut cable to whip Cedillo’s blue Toyota Scion, pierce right through the frame, and strike Cedillo’s skull.  The accident caused Cedillo to lose a third of her skull and part of the right side of her brain.  She has limited cognitive ability and has lost all movement on the left side of her body.

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NJ School District to Pay $4.2 Million to Student Paralyzed by a Bully

A bully on the playground, by Flickr user "trix0r", licensed via Creative Commons.Sawyer Rosenstein was twelve years old when a bully punched him in his stomach hard enough to cause a blood clot in the artery that supplies blood to his spine.  Two days later, the injury paralyzed him from the waist down, permanently, in a series of events declared “incredibly rare”.  There is a certain heart-tugging sympathy we feel for the boy, because everyone has experienced a bully either as a victim or an agent or a powerless onlooker, and because in our experience bullying is merely “something kids just do”, and because this time it was more than that.  Imagine being confined to a wheelchair for the better part of your entire life all because of the baseless anger of a violent child.  Imagine no consequences to said child’s actions (the bully in this case, who was known to be one and had a history of violence, received only a few days’ suspension) and having to look him in the eye daily from your new wheelchair you’ll never leave.  Try to imagine — and this is the difficult part — whether a $4.8 million check would make that prison any better.

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Two Recent Negligence Settlements from Public Service Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, even those whose sworn mission is to protect and serve or to do no harm.  Two settlements were announced this week that demonstrate exactly that.  In Brooklyn, New York, a woman whose doctors’ negligence resulted in the amputation of her arms and legs was awarded $17.1 million.  In Tallahassee, Florida, the negligence of the police concerning a woman who was murdered during a botched drug sting operation led to a $2.4 million settlement for her family.  In both these cases, the professionals in charge, the ones whose judgement is awarded a certain amount of trust, made bad decisions that led to unfortunate consequences.  Everyone makes mistakes, but the law in general isn’t there to prevent that.  Rather, the law and the court system are intended to pursue justice among an otherwise ambivalent world.  And so, the silver lining: in Florida, a new regulation, called “Rachel’s Law” after the woman in question, was enacted to train policemen better and set up new guidelines in the use of criminal informants.

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The Latest BP Oil Spill Settlement

Oil Refinery in Nova Scotia, from Flickr user Iguanasan, licensed via Creative Commons

An oil refinery in Nova Scotia

The big news this weekend was the announcement that BP has settled the set of civil suits by residents and businesses against the company.  The settlement does not have a fixed amount, but BP claims it will likely pay around $7.8 billion.  While that may seem like a big number, this is only the most recent settlement.  In addition to this lawsuit, which covers economic and medical claims, BP has already spent about $22.1 billion on other settlements and, of course, the initial clean up of the spill.  And more is yet to come: the company still faces the US federal government and the individual states affected by the spill in court, potentially seeing criminal charges applied.  Analysts place the total amount in these cases to be anywhere between $17- and $40 billion.  BP itself has set aside $37.5 billion in anticipation of the cases.  There are a few variables in this number, which causes the range to vary so widely.  For one thing, the environmental fines depend on whether or not BP is found to have been grossly negligent, which some see as unlikely in the wake of these latest settlements.  Additionally, if the government levies criminal charges against the company, which it most likely will, the individual fines for that might be $10 billion (the highest amount of criminal fines paid by a corporation so far have only been $2 billion).  For more analysis of the numbers, check out this Wall Street Journal article that gives an excellent rundown.

The ultimate question this whole catastrophe asks is: does money really resolve the environmental problems caused by the company?  Some 5 billion barrels of oil were spilled, possibly because the company ignored safety checks in its rush to pump more oil out of the Earth.  When numbers get that high, humans have an inability to really grasp how huge they are, so use this tool to get a sense of just how much of an impact this spill had on the Gulf.  The city of Chicago and the surrounding area would be drenched in crude if the Magnificent Mile suddenly erupted.  The entirety of South Carolina would need to be cleaned if Columbia opened up and started gushing.  So does $5.4 billion, the lowest in environmental fines BP could pay, really fix anything?  I for one am looking forward to the criminal trial — let’s see if anyone will actually be held accountable for ruining a bit of the Earth.

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