There is no true justice on this earth. Believe me, I’m in the justice business, so I know. And it’s not our fault. Our justice system, even the much decried personal injury law system, does the best it can. But it still falls short.
Take the Boston Marathon explosions. We don’t know who did it yet, but let’s assume they’re caught and end up in jail or on death row. Can they be forced to compensate their victims or their surviving family members for their life-long wage loss, medical expenses, pain and suffering, etc.? Hell no. I can almost guaranty it. Why not? Well, if the bad guys are homegrown (a la Timothy McVeigh), they will have shallow pockets. They are crackpots with nothing to lose. No big bank accounts to go after. On the other hand, if the terrorists turn out to be foreign operatives (a la Bin Ladin), they may have assets, but they will be hidden away in some remote spider hole half way around the world. You can never get to them.
That’s why it is unlikely that the victims will even bother suing them. Instead, if they choose to sue anyone at all for their personal injuries, it will probably be the local companies or officials who, through security lapses or other negligence, may have allowed the attacks to happen. I am not saying there were any security lapses — in fact there probably were not. This kind of attack is probably impossible to prevent. But if there were security lapses that allowed this to happen, then those responsible would be targets worth going after because they would likely have insurance or assets within reach.
Other terrorist victims have sued non-terrorists for compensation. For example, in the World Trade Center bombing (not 9/11, but an earlier attack where a massive bomb was planted and detonated in the parking garage below), the victims ended up suing not the terrorists, but the owner of the Twin Towers. And they proved at trial that the owner had knowledge the attacks were being planned. They proved at trial that the security system was woefully inadequate, given those threats. The jury found the owner liable, and awarded the victims sizable verdicts.
Unfortunately, the owner happened to be a governmental entity known as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Governments are often entitled to immunity from personal injury suits, even when they are grossly negligent. The highest court in New York State, the Court of Appeals, reversed the jury’s verdict, finding that the defendant was entitled to governmental immunity. See, Matter Of World Trade Center Bombing Litigation., 17 N.Y.3d 428, 957 N.E.2d 733, 933 N.Y.S.2d 164 (2012). So the victims won the battle (trial) but lost the war.
Another example of terrorist victims suing non-terrorists for compensation is 9/11. The victims ended up suing the airlines for their alleged security lapses in allowing the hijackings to happen. Of course the victims did not bother suing Bin Laden or his cronies.
Some of the Boston Marathon victims might desperately need money. Imagine you just lost your legs. You’ll likely be out of a job for a long while. You’ll need lots of medical care. Lots of therapy. Psychologists. All kinds of needs. In sum, you need money. One target might be the Boston Athletic Association, who manages the Boston Marathon. Perhaps they could have or should have hired more security. I’m not by any means saying that’s true, but a good investigation might turn something up.
You could say it’s not fair that a negligent security provider has to compensate the victims of a terrorist attack while the terrorists don’t. I agree. But on the other hand, it would be even more unfair to let the people responsible for security failures off the hook and leave the legless or lifeless victims holding the bag.
As I started out saying, there is no true justice on this earth. But there is sometimes a small cup of justice.
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Michael G. Bersani, Esq.
michaels-smolak.com Central NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.