Thursday, March 15, 2012

Damage caps: how low is too low?

I don't know any non-subjective way of answering that question, but I had my own Potter Stewart moment in reading about the civil case against Virginia Tech by parents of two of the victims in the 2007 shooting:
The jury determined the Prydes and Petersons each deserved $4 million, but the award is likely to be sharply reduced. State law requires it to be capped at $100,000.
A wrongful-death cap of $100K? Irrespective of actual economic damages? Limiting the noneconomic ("pain and suffering") damages of losing one's child at age 20 or so to $100K, 40% + expenses of which is likely to go to the lawyers?

Hell, at that rate, I'm amazed any lawyer was willing to take the case. (Note that the linked article says Va. Tech may appeal, and it's still possible the lawyers will take a loss.)

Mississippi's own cap for a state defendant is $250K. I'm not sure that's particularly fair either, but $100K is too damn low. Might as well not waive sovereign immunity at all. [CORRECTION: Since 2002, $500K, a more reasonable sum.]

... 24 other families split a $11M settlement. Leaving aside the merits of the plaintiffs' trying the case rather than opting in, if the most those families could've recovered was $100K each, $2.4M total, then I wonder how $11M was arrived at.


  1. I think the MTCA cap is $500K

  2. You are of course correct; I'm showing my age. Thanks!

  3. Was the State liable in this case? Just because some deranged individual was loose on state-owned land, how is the state of VA liable for these deaths.

    I agree with you that $100k is too damn low, but the when the state wasn't liable awarding anything is too damn much. I'm sympathetic to the families, but that doesn't mean that they should be paid out of the state treasury just because I'm sypathetic.

  4. I dunno about liability - for the sake of discussion, I was taking the jury verdict at face value.

    Presumably there was some evidence that the university's response or security was negligent in some way. But if there's an appeal, your question will be squarely presented, I'm sure.