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Follow-up: What Happened to Two Cincinnati Familes After the Indiana Stage Collapse

December 25, 2011

 Earlier, I wrote how the Indiana cap on a single tort recovery meant seven bereaving families and more than forty injured , including a  young paraplegic, could not receive more than five million dollars in total.  With mounting medical expenses and deaths, the families   of a full recovery.  Today, The Cincinnati  Enquirer profiled  the tragic consequences on Cincinnatians. 

One was  24-year old Meagan Toothman, killed during the stage collapse.  A  beautiful young blond with an engaging smile, this graduate of   Turpin High school was beloved in Anderson.  An athlete  dedicated  to children, she already had a psychology degree from Wittenberg, a masters of education, and studying graduate school psychology.  Turpin’s cheerleading coach.  Meagan was about to intern in the West Clermont school district.   This young woman who touched so many lives already, who led  a life of valor and value, cannot be fully  recognized for who she was and what she meant to her loved ones and community for  the “tort caps” mean that the value of her  life  is  “capped.”   With seven dead , forty injured,  and a five million dollar cap on any single accident in Indiana, there is not enough money to go around even to pay for the mounting medical bills of the survivors.  How then will the law value the life of a valiant young woman who was cherished, nurtured, and now a leader ready to contribute so much to our community?  Tort caps prevent such a full legal reckoning of this loss.  

What will happen to Shannon and Jade Walcott?  Thirty-five year old Shannon was  without health insurance when the stage collapsed.  Her daughter, eleven-year old Jade, was  hospitalized until September 30th with a fractured skull, fractured neck vertebrae and other injuries.  Shannon suffered a broken pelvis and ribs, and complications from a collapsed lung.  She worked at three jobs before the stage collapse and has not returned.   While confidentiality does not allow for discussion of the settlement offers, articles indicate that Jade and Shannon  could not have been offered  more than a percentage of their mounting medical bills  with little to cover what might be the long recovery of the two in the future.    Jade and Shannon have reached out for charity donations to “Jade’s Journey” and the “Shannon and Jade Recovery Trust.”  Is charity a good substitute for a fair settlement of  these tort claims?  Does any reader truly  believe the long-term costs of a young girl with a fractured skull and battered spine would likely be covered by contributions by neighbors, however well-meaning  and generous these neighbors may be? 

 Stories like these show why the concept of “tort caps” prevents  justice for the victim.  Victims need to be compensated so they are made whole.  This is not a radical new  concept.  In contrast, long before there was even democracy in much of the world, there were torts.   From ancient times, societies have recognized the need  to compensate a man, a woman, a child.  injured as a consequence of negligence or wrongdoing.  It is the traditional and time-proven way of providing  civil justice.   The new-fangled concept of “tort caps”  fails to take in account the recognition that we cannot let the injured beg for charity when they are  crippled  by another. We cannot diminish the value of an exemplary life.  We cannot “cap” justice for when we do so we  fail to want to value each life as if our own, precious and unique.

For more on the Indiana stage collapse, please see today’s The Cincinnati Enquirer, Forum at p.1, “Mother of Stage Collapse Victim Carries On.”  and  my earlier blog entries.

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