Liability for the Boston Marathon bombing?

by Walter Olson on May 29, 2013

According to a panel discussion hosted by the law firm of Edwards Wildman Palmer, sponsors of the Boston Marathon could face liability claims over the terrorist bombing of the event. One panelist cited the Station nightclub fire litigation in Rhode Island, in which plaintiffs lodged claims against upwards of 90 defendants, such as beer and radio-station sponsors of the concert, and won substantial settlements — $22 million from the parent company of the local radio station and $21 million from the beer defendants, for example. [Sheri Qualters, National Law Journal]

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Liability for Boston Marathon Bombings? – New York Personal Injury Law Blog
05.29.13 at 11:16 am

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1 Turk 05.29.13 at 10:17 am

The route of a major marathon is unprotectable in a free society. Any analogy to the Station nightclub fire is badly misplaced because the premises of a nightclub can be controlled.

But you can’t control all 26.2 miles of a marathon route.

2 Jason Barney 05.29.13 at 10:47 am

No, but you can create a question of fact to survive summary judgment, burying the defendant in attorney fees and extort a settlement out of them, all while crowing about being the champion of the victims.

3 Rob 05.29.13 at 12:14 pm

Only a lawyer could come up with “logic” like that. ;-D

4 L. C. Burgundy 05.29.13 at 12:14 pm

The Station was also an unintentional act. If liability for intentional acts is assigned to all incidental parties, then you can kiss events like this goodbye and I think the saying goes that the terrorists have won.

5 Turk 05.29.13 at 12:28 pm

No, but you can create a question of fact to survive summary judgment, burying the defendant in attorney fees and extort a settlement out of them…

We have a name for lawyers that think like that: Bankrupt.

6 Ed 05.29.13 at 12:52 pm

The comparison to the Station fire is incorrect but what do you expect from a law firm that could profit by lawsuits. The Station fire resulted from preventable conditions, flamable soundproofing and unapproved fireworks inside the building. There is also evidence of overcorwding which caused the crowd to jam the exits. The Boston Marathon was the result of a deliberate terrorist attack. The only way it could have been prevented (based upon what’s known so far) would have been to create a standoff area and search everyone entering the area. This would have required restrictions along a good portion of the route and only have served to move the attack from next to the race to the checkpoints. Furthermore, if the searches were effective, it could have caused the terrorists to choose another event. Such as their original target the 4th of July, meaning probably the Boston Pops Concert.

7 KB 05.29.13 at 2:15 pm

According to the President, there is a War on Terror. This was a terrorist act. Wouldn’t this be considered a act of war.

Being a non-lawyer it grates on me that someone would expect another innocent party (and just as much a victim) to pay damages for something someone else deliberately caused. I know this is routine for these attorneys, but it still seems wrong.

8 BarNord 05.29.13 at 3:23 pm

I know this is routine for these attorneys, but it still seems wrong.

It’s not wrong. It’s business. Sort of like the gun company executive who testified to Congress that he had no knowledge that any of his weapons were ever used in commission of a crime.

9 Hugo S. Cunningham 05.29.13 at 3:30 pm

KB suggested there is no liability for acts of war. I recall what might have been an urban legend, that during the hijack boom of the 1970s, a sleazy lawyer working for a sleazy insurance company went to some Middle Eastern pesthole with a briefcase of dollars, to get an official-sounding announcement from the hijackers’ outfit that they were waging an official war (hence, perhaps, getting the insurance company off the hook).

/

10 Jim Collins 05.29.13 at 3:31 pm

Wasn’t the Port authority of New York and New Jersey found liable for the 1993 World Trade Center bombings? Nothing surprises me any more.

11 Eric 05.29.13 at 4:58 pm

“It’s not wrong. It’s business. Sort of like the gun company executive who testified to Congress that he had no knowledge that any of his weapons were ever used in commission of a crime.”

No, actually it’s much closer than “sort of” to abusing the law to sue gun companies because someone misused a gun to commit a crime. Same lack of focus on the party actually responsible, because it is much easier to extort money out of productive members of society.

12 John Rohan 05.29.13 at 8:49 pm

Jim Collins beat me to mentioning the ludicrous 2oo5 lawsuit on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which held the New York Port Authority 68% liable, and the terrorists who actually planted the bomb 32% liable. It’s much closer to a precedent for any lawsuit related to the Boston bombings.

Incredibly, it was upheld on appeal in 2008, although in 2011, it was blocked due to a technicality. I am not certain what the status is now:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/22/us-worldtradecenter-ruling-idUSTRE78L4FR20110922

13 j d 05.30.13 at 12:52 am

I wish I attended this panel discussion so that I could understand the legal theory which would make the sponsors liable. How can an entity have a legal duty to the injured bystanders, absent the affirmative ability to either protect the bystanders (e.g. by coordinating security) or to control the conduct of the third party that caused the injuries?

The sponsors of the Great White concert at the Station Nightclub (arguably) knew or should have known that Great White commonly employed pyrotechnics into their shows, so (arguably) were in a position to dictate to the band what to do and what not to do onstage. Thus you could at least make an argument that the sponsors had a duty to the concertgoers.

You really can’t compare the Boston Marathon sponsors to the Station Nightclub sponsors.

14 Ron Miller 05.30.13 at 9:20 am

There is certainly a lot of outrage over this lawsuit. There might, however, be wisdom is tempering a bit of that anger until a claim is actually filed first.

Will someone bring a claim? Well, there when many people are hurt, it is will not be shocking that someone brings some kind of claim, no matter what the facts are. But that may not happen here.

The chances I think of the marathon organizers/sponsor being held responsible is vanquishingly low.

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