This past week the Attorney General for the State of Indiana indicated that the State would pay its maximum liability of $5,000,000 to the victims of this tragedy. As mentioned in my prior blog, under Indiana law the State’s maximum liability is $700,000 per person and no more than $5,000,000 per event. As there are now 7 deaths and a host of other very serious injuries, including a teenager who is paralyzed, these funds are not going to go very far in compensating these unfortunate individuals or their families.
Some state representatives have raised the question whether the Indiana Legislature should enact special legislation to raise the damage limitation or cap for this particular event. Indiana has done this once previously in the case of a 4 year girl named Emily Hunt who was paralyzed at an amusement park called the Old Indiana Fun Park in 1996. This child was paralyzed and her grandmother killed when a miniature train within the park derailed. Although the train was supposed to have been inspected by the State, the State inspector later admitted that he wasn’t qualified to make such an inspection, and there was a substantial question whether an inspection had ever been performed. In response to a public outcry, the Indiana Legislature raised the cap to $1.5 million from the $500,000 limit that then existed, but only for this child’s claim. Which raises the question why does the State have a liability cap that is so low in the first place?
With many politicians, caps on damages that can be awarded are popular because they can be viewed as curtailing so called “frivolous lawsuits”. On the other hand, any claim whose legal value is more than $700,000 is certainly not frivolous. However, if one is in the position of a liability insurance company, it is much easier to claim, at least publically, that damage caps are needed because of “frivolous lawsuits”, then it is to argue that caps are needed because people who are killed or crippled are simply being awarded too much money and insurers want more profit.
Thus far, there has been no public discussion by the City of Indianapolis to raise the $700,000 damage cap that exists for several motorcyclists, one of who was killed and another critically injured last August when an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer allegedly drove his patrol car while intoxicated at a high rate of speed into several motorcyclists who were waiting at a traffic light. Criminal charges are still pending against this police officer here in Indianapolis.