“Family sues over girl’s death during tornado”

by Walter Olson on January 14, 2009

There go trailers, right? “An attorney for the family of the 10-year-old killed when the 2006 Rogers [Minnesota] tornado hit is arguing that faulty construction, not an act of God, is to blame.”

{ 14 comments }

1 Brad Ford 01.14.09 at 4:05 pm

If the house was built “to code” and failed after the tornado strike, they would/should have no case. If, however, the house did not meet code requirements (designed to prevent this kind of thing), they are in trouble.

2 Richard Nieporent 01.14.09 at 5:23 pm

Brad, aren’t the county building inspectors supposed to make sure that the house was built to code?

3 Todd Rogers 01.14.09 at 5:26 pm

Well first off, there is probably an email stored on some server from some associate structural engineer which suggests that bolts should be closer together and someone else agreed but ultimately the notion was disregarded. Thus, the jury has its smoking gun. But more importantly, I’m wondering why Exxon wasn’t named in the suit. After all, according to the High Priest His Holiness Al Gore, global warming is causing all of these anomalously strong storms and we all know who’s behind global warming, right? All those $billions of evil profits had a hand in the loss of this young girl and someone needs to send a message.

4 John Burgess 01.14.09 at 6:19 pm

Todd! OMG!! I’m liable too?! I have been known to use Exxon gas in my (shame) automobile. That makes me an enabler of Exxon, does it not?

Now granted, my pockets aren’t as deep, but I may have to move and change my name. And ride a bicycle.

5 Norman Teigen 01.14.09 at 6:25 pm

We have a plaintiff-oriented bar here in Minnesota. It’s embarrassing.

6 Norman Teigen 01.14.09 at 6:31 pm

Local news reports that the suit was settled on Wednesday. The judge would not allow any of the details to be released. Guess that there was something to this after all.

7 Bob Lipton 01.14.09 at 7:16 pm

To me, a settlement does not speak to the validity of suit. It speaks, as it does to many of the readers here, of the costs of defending against a suit, the bad publicity and the risk of a jury who feel sorry for the dead kid’s family and thinks the defendant has money — why not have someone pay?

Bob

8 bob neal 01.14.09 at 8:32 pm

And it’s Norman’s assumption that there is “something to this” because the matter settles which is the problem. Americans have no earthly idea what it costs to take a case through Summary Judgment, let alone trial. Companies have no choice but to do the math, adjust the claim, and pay. It’s sick and we all pay for it. I’m an attorney and I’m disgusted by the system.

One of these days, nobody will be willing to put up the capital to own a business. Who will the Plaintiffs’ attorneys sue then? Oh yeah, the government. And just like the Dems turning over state treasuries to the Unions, politicians will make sure the Plaintiffs’ bar is well funded.

9 Brat Magursky 01.15.09 at 8:08 am

just keep in mind if the common citizen tried to get a large lump sum payment from a company using nefarious means its called extortion but when a lawyer engages in such activity it’s called a settlement!

10 Todd Rogers 01.15.09 at 8:08 am

Sure, there was something to this…a risk analysis between the cost of defense and the settlement which would likely be acceptable by the court. Whether or not there was any actual liability is irrelevant. The plaintiff’s firm probably just discovered a revenue stream in structural engineering liability and will soon be running mid-day info-mercials…”have you or a loved one been injured by an act of God? If so…” you know the drill.

11 Brad Ford 01.15.09 at 12:47 pm

As someone who works on the defense side of things, I am skeptical of these kind of cases. Nevertheless, some of them are meritorious (at least arguably) and need to be settled.

Let’s say a community in “tornado alley” dictates by law that all trailer parks must have a tornado shelter that meets certain standards. Although a tornado is an act of god, the fact it is forseable one will hit the trailer park is reflected in the ordinance. If a tornado actually hits the trailer park and the shelter is not there or was not built according to the required standards, the owners are simply going to be found liable in a civil court for the injuries sustained. Why? They had a duty (pursuant to the law), they breached that duty, their breach caused people to get injured, and people were actually injured.

Other posts have stated this matter has already been settled. If so, it suggests the builder knew it had a serious exposure on its hands.

12 Dan 01.15.09 at 3:34 pm

Those who think that if the house or shelter met some level of government standards or local building codes the builder is somehow immune from suit, or will prevail on that basis alone have not been following pharmaceutical or automotive liability cases. In both of those fields, judges have ruled that such standards form a floor, rather than a ceiling, for the producers duty to provide a safe product.

In other words, even if the manufacturer has met all safety regulations, the plaintiff is still free to argue that the design was still deficient, as the manufacturer either knew or should have known that the standard was inadequate to prevent the injury (or even potential injury in some newer cases).

The fact that the plaintiff would likely not have purchased or used the “safer” design, because it would have been more expensive or otherwise less attractive than the alternative that was actually produced is considered to be immaterial, and generally inadmissible in these cases.

13 Cowpill 01.15.09 at 5:20 pm

It is a moot argument, God hates trailer parks.

14 gitarcarver 01.15.09 at 6:40 pm

If so, it suggests the builder knew it had a serious exposure on its hands.

The exposure may have been the dead girl and not the fact that the company had not done anything or had not done everything to make the home bulletproof from a tornado.

“Look at the picture! Look at her face! I am channeling her right now and she cries out from the grave for justice!”

(Sorry… that was my John Edwards monent there.)

Here is an article on the Rogers Tornado including a picture of the house in which the girl was killed.

http://www.startribune.com/local/23999344.html?page=1&c=y

The headline is “Do garage doors open the door to tornado damage?”

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