08/18/2005: Powerful Forces...
This is an interesting juxtaposition: Tale of two moms offers single response to the worst of times, from our own Burt Constable (Daily Herald) on a recent Illinois wrongful death settlement case:
"...Two men dead too soon, two institutions with two contrasting approaches to the controversy, and two angry and grieving moms with evidence, sympathetic supporters and fervent critics, but no peace.
The death of Wheeler, a pretty good football player who died of an asthma attack while Northwestern officials made a litany of awful decisions during and after his death, can’t compare to the death of Sheehan, an Army mechanic who was killed in April 2004 in Baghdad by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.
Both men partook willingly in the activities, were compensated in some way for their participation, and leave loved ones with an all-encompassing grief. But dying for your college football team and dying for your country are not equal.
With government-provided life insurance and a new law raising combat death benefits from $12,420 to $100,000, Sheehan’s death carries a monetary value of $500,000.
Northwestern, attorneys and a judge agreed the life of Wheeler is worth $16 million to his divorced parents and four half- and full siblings.
That could be considered a large settlement for the life of a man with no wife or kids to support. But British tabloids report that Russell Crowe is willing to pay $11 million to compensate a New York hotel concierge who says the actor threw a phone and vase at him.
In a nation where all men are created equal, assigning a dollar value to their lives and untimely demises is delicate.
According to our news stories, the price of debilitating injuries and lasting pain for a police officer critically injured on duty is worth $10 million, minus legal and medical bills. The lifelong care of a baby left severely disabled by a drugstore mistake has a value of $21 million. Another baby injured forever due to mistakes at delivery deserves less than $12 million. The lives of a mother and daughter killed in a plane crash are worth $15 million. Parents of a teen who died of a drug overdose are awarded $200,000 from an insurance policy covering her dealer. And Wednesday’s Washington Post told of a family torn apart fighting over the money paid to relatives of Sept. 11 victims.
In 98 percent of these cases, the participants agree to a settlement before the case goes to a jury, says Tom Demetrio, a prominent attorney in wrongful death and negligence suits, and the lawyer for Wheeler’s father, George Wheeler.
Putting a price tag on a life, a missing limb or a baby’s future is the lawyers’ job.
She could literally take her battle to a public arena.
“I’m not making light of it ...,” Demetrio says, “but she can do what that lady in Texas is doing across from the president’s ranch.”
A mourning mother can be a powerful force."
Karen on 08.18.05 @ 11:47 AM CST