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Massachusetts Municipal Tort Reform-Child’s Death Limited to $600,000 Cap-A Double Tragedy

The family of a child killed by a falling gate has settled their lawsuit against the municipality responsible for the tragedy. The settlement? $600,000, the maximum allowed by law.

Readers of this web log are well aware of my position on tort reform (“deform”). Here is a terrific and tragic example of the inequity that results when the legislature attempts to assist big business, big insurance and big government on the backs and wallets of the injured, disabled, and, in this case, the dead.

In this case, the city involved had previously admitted liability. It left and unsecured iron gate in a child-accessible area; the result? The gate fell on young eleven year old Tim DiLeo, crushing him to death in the late summer of 2007.

Methuen, MA (the municipality responsible for the accident) Mayor William Manzi, is quoted as saying that ‘no amount of money can replace a child’. Mr. Mayor, you are absolutely correct. However, in our system of justice, we have, historically, required that a jury of our peers gets to decide what a child’s life is worth. The framers of our judicial system knew that each life was precious, but each life was different; damages could vary dramatically depending upon the particular situation. What tort deform does is take these decisions away from the jury. Big business, big insurance, big government and your elected officials are saying to our peers, our jury pools, our citizens: “We don’t trust your judgment. We trust you to elect our public servants and pay your taxes; we require you to volunteer for jury duty, but we are going to tell you what you can award because you are too stupid to decide things like this for yourself.” Maybe they are correct. After all, you elected the legislators that keep taking away your precious rights in favor of big business, big insurance and big government. Shame on them; shame on you.

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