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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Yankees “win” protection against terrorism

Yankee fans root for a first-place team and usually watch their heroes win when they visit the new Yankee Stadium in New York. But fans of the Bronx Bombers have recently lost something too, something many sports fans around the country will probably lose soon: the right to sue the team for damages if there’s a terrorist attack. Meanwhile, another team can claim victory every time the Yankees take the field—tort reform advocates.

The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: August 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: August 21, 2012 at 12:23 PM (#4213713)
I hereby dub this thread OT Politics!
   2. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: August 21, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4213721)
I thought about that tag, but rejected it as politics is controversial, and there should be no controversy as to the boondoggle of making the Yankees sue-proof in this situation.
   3. JoeHova Posted: August 21, 2012 at 01:09 PM (#4213790)
So, the feds granted them this right because they have apparently met some kind of arbitrary security standard? I don't really see what the upside to the public is in granting companies this right to not be sued, but I guess I also don't see how or why somebody would sue the Yankees if someone flew a plane into the grandstand.
   4. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: August 21, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4213858)
I don't really see what the upside to the public is in granting companies this right to not be sued, but I guess I also don't see how or why somebody would sue the Yankees if someone flew a plane into the grandstand.


Well, what if the terrorism consists of some gunmen sneaking weapons through security and then opening up during the seventh inning stretch? I'm generally not the suing type, but that would be a situation in which you would expect someone to sue. Except that now the Department of Homeland Security has determined that you can't sue if this happens, because (as I understand the ruling) it can't happen. If some random crazy guy shoots you in NYS you can sue, but if its Brooklyn separatists then you're SOL. And that's weird.

EDIT: It also creates the weird situation where the Yankees would be motivated to try to get anyone who did something especially nasty in NYS declared a terrorist. That crazy guy who thinks (Yankees sponsor) Avis Rental Cars are surveilling his house? Terrorist. That guy who shoots at the guy his ex-wife is dating? Terrorist. Etcetera.
   5. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 21, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4213861)
FTA:

Supporters say the Safety Act gives strong incentives for firms to raise their security standards, and encourages innovation.


I think granting immunity would do just the opposite. Once the Yanks become immune from lawsuit, their incentives to raise security and innovate absolutely decrease.

But really, that's besides the point. Do defense firms and Yankee stadium need further incentives to guard against terrorist attacks? Is "preventing terrorist attacks" not incentive enough?

I fail to see any added value for immunizing these entities. Sure, sometimes you can't stop lunatics. But if an attack happens and it succeeds, in part, because of some breach of duty by the Yanks, they absolutely should be liable for it.
   6. smileyy Posted: August 21, 2012 at 02:33 PM (#4213933)
My federal tax dollars are paying for the bureaucracy that manages that immunity provision. *($#.
   7. bunyon Posted: August 21, 2012 at 03:09 PM (#4213981)
I'm generally in favor of tort reform. That doesn't mean I favor blanket bans on lawsuits. It seems to me this should fall into letting a judge make decisions.

Take two types of terrorist attack:

1) group of people commandeer airplane, fly it into full stadium.

2) group of people smuggle assault rifles into the stadium, open fire


It seems obvious to me that in act 1, the Yankees should not be liable. They had no control over air traffic in the area, nor airline security nor should they reasonably be expected to have an air defense. It seems equally obvious that in act 2 the Yankees may well be liable (I'm not saying they clearly are, just that one could imagine that their security fell down).

Why that needs to be decided by the executive branch is beyond me. Except that money changed hands.
   8. villageidiom Posted: August 21, 2012 at 04:57 PM (#4214151)
It seems obvious to me that in act 1, the Yankees should not be liable. They had no control over air traffic in the area, nor airline security nor should they reasonably be expected to have an air defense.
The counterargument would be that by holding an event that congregates tens of thousands of people in a confined space so accessible by air traffic they are creating an obvious target for such an attack, and that the obviousness of the risk implies an obvious need for preventive efforts.

The counter-counterargument is that the risk, while obvious, is so ridiculously remote that they should not be expected to take the preventive efforts needed to protect a stadium full of people from such an attack.

I find slight merit to the counterargument, and substantial merit to the counter-counterargument.
   9. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: August 21, 2012 at 05:09 PM (#4214161)
If a Muslim vendor at the Stadium drops his bag of peanuts, which I slip on and hurt myself, they could declare him a "terrorist" and be immune from my civil suit, right?
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 21, 2012 at 05:09 PM (#4214163)
I think granting immunity would do just the opposite. Once the Yanks become immune from lawsuit, their incentives to raise security and innovate absolutely decrease.

Terrorism is bad for business even without tort liability, so the Yankees (and other teams) still have significan incentives to effective security.
   11. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 21, 2012 at 05:13 PM (#4214170)
The counterargument would be that by holding an event that congregates tens of thousands of people in a confined space so accessible by air traffic they are creating an obvious target for such an attack, and that the obviousness of the risk implies an obvious need for preventive efforts.

That's really just an argument that event holders should be strictly liable for harm to attendees even in the absence of negligence by the event holders. Strict liability is pretty rare, and usually for things much different than having a popular event.
   12. Cowboy Popup Posted: August 21, 2012 at 05:16 PM (#4214172)
I find...substantial merit to the counter-counterargument.

You and likely every court in the country. Which makes it bizarre that the executive branch feels the need to not let the courts make that determination themselves. No one would be able to successfully sue the Yanks if someone flew a plane into the stadium.

On the other hand, if the Yanks' evacuation methods were grossly negligent, like say, waiting to inform everyone in the stadium until the Steinbrenners had safely exited, there might be merit to the suit. And the court's are the perfect government entity to decide that question.

Terrorism is bad for business even without tort liability, so the Yankees (and other teams) still have significan incentives to effective security.

Right, and I note that in the next paragraph of my post. The Yankees don't need any extra incentive to have effective security in place. So then, what is the real point of granting them immunity?
   13. Swedish Chef Posted: August 21, 2012 at 05:16 PM (#4214175)
The Yankees aren't allowed to build their own air defense system, anyway. But I bet they would have spiffy uniforms if they set up their own armed forces.
   14. The TVerik of Lordly Might Posted: August 21, 2012 at 05:21 PM (#4214185)
Ichiro could repel an air attack. If he wanted to.
   15. Chicago Joe Posted: August 21, 2012 at 05:25 PM (#4214189)
Don't know if he still has the range to catch the plane.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: August 21, 2012 at 09:28 PM (#4214358)
But I bought tix in the terrorist-free section!!
   17. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 21, 2012 at 10:28 PM (#4214404)
"The Yankees aren't allowed to build their own air defense system, anyway. But I bet they would have spiffy uniforms if they set up their own armed forces."

They used to...
   18. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: August 21, 2012 at 11:41 PM (#4214449)
I thought about that tag, but rejected it as politics is controversial, and there should be no controversy as to the boondoggle of making the Yankees sue-proof in this situation.

Never put anything past an ambulance-chasing lawyer. Some chola-looking chica just sued the Dallas Cowboys because two years ago she sat on a bench outside the stadium in August which was hot (duh), "burning" her legs and causing "mental anguish" etc etc etc. And by the "McDonalds's hot coffee is hot" precedent, she'll probably win.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: August 22, 2012 at 04:07 AM (#4214501)
And by the "McDonalds's hot coffee is hot" precedent, she'll probably win.

A trip to Wiki to remind ourselves of the facts in this one is not a bad idea. A quick refresher:

1. She had 3rd degree burns over 6% of her skin (and lesser burns over a bunch more). Imagine 3rd degree burns in your crotch then curl up into a little ball.
2. She received skin grafts and was hospitalised for 8 days.
3. She offered to settle for $20,000 which was basically her hospital costs and lost wages -- McDonald's countered with an offer of $800.
4. She filed suit and offered to settle for $90,000 and was rejected.
5. Prior to trial she offered to settle for $300,000 and a mediator suggested $225,000 but McD refused.
6. She was awarded $160,000 in compensatory and $2.7 M in punitive. The $2.7 M was immediately reduced to $480,000 for a total award of $640,000.
7. Both sides appealed but settled "for less than $600,000".

Obviously, legal wrangling over liability could go on all day (and there are legit issues here I'm sure). But from my experience, most people don't realize how badly she was injured nor that all she was originally looking for was to cover her health costs and lost wages. Being badly hurt doesn't mean McD's was responsible but this wasn't somebody looking to cash in on spilt coffee, this was somebody who didn't expect to be served molten lead in a coffee cup nor to be in the hospital for 8 days and wanted simple compensation for her out-of-pocket costs.

And even after the lawyers got involved, McD's had chances to get out of this for relative chump change. It's cited as a classic example of the need for tort reform but McDonald's crapped their own bed.
   20. Rants Mulliniks Posted: August 22, 2012 at 09:31 AM (#4214545)
Further to #19, anyone interested in tort reform should really take the time to watch the HBO documentary "Hot Coffee".
   21. villageidiom Posted: August 22, 2012 at 10:01 AM (#4214579)
It's cited as a classic example of the need for tort reform but McDonald's crapped their own bed.
It's still a classic example of tort reform. An initial verdict of close to $3 million being reduced to $600k suggests the possibility the initial verdict was just plain dumb.

Proponents of tort reform are pushing that:

(1) Frivolous cases need to be eliminated; and/or

(2) Unreasonable judgments that are guaranteed to be reduced on appeal should be capped at whatever level it would likely end up at

...in the name of saving time and cost, without reducing justice.

The McDonald's case is a direct argument for (2), not (1); if $600k is more sensible than $3 million, then everyone is better off if it gets to $600k at the first verdict. The thousands* of copycat claims with the "injured" party not being able to demonstrate actual injury, yet pushing to trial, are a direct argument for (1).

The thing holding up tort reform is the "without reducing justice" part. Setting up rules, caps, etc., without limiting cases that deserve to be unrestrained, is not a simple task; yet all that are offered are simple solutions. More complex solutions generally involve another layer of bureaucracy, which has the potential to take more time and involve more cost, which goes against one of the major arguments for tort reform in the first place. In that sense, tort reform should be held up.

* In a prior job, I only saw hundreds of these, not thousands. But those were related just to my employer, a small enough player that the national effect should easily have been thousands, if not tens of thousands.

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