Sunday, 19 June 2016

Agreeing the Price of a Child's Life.

I just read a long article about the little boy who was killed by an alligator at a Disney resort in Florida. The article sought to examine – in quite some depth – Disney’s legal liability in the matter, citing aspects of state law and questioning which could apply and which couldn’t. The lawyer acting for the boy’s parents was quoted as saying that Disney will certainly settle out of court because ‘Disney caters to (sic) children and will want to avoid a public relations bombshell.’

This sort of thing shocks me almost as much as the incident did. If I were the the parent of a child killed by an alligator, would I want compensation? The question is utterly redundant because no amount of money could even begin to compensate me for the death of my child. A child’s death is arguably the worst thing that could happen to any normal parent. I faced that prospect once when my own daughter went missing, and I can honestly say that it was the only time in my life when I felt true panic to the extent that I could hardly function. I don’t usually panic in stressful situations, but that was easily the worst I have known. (She was fine, by the way – she’d just wandered into a neighbour’s house and overstayed her time.)

But of course, the article was really about modern times when PR carries such weight with large corporations that mere factors like grief take second place. It effectively makes a child’s life a commodity to be haggled over. And maybe it’s also about the lawyer wanting to get the biggest settlement he can manage so that he will get a big fat fee. I can’t know that, of course, and I apologise if I’m wrong. But it’s not an unreasonable suspicion, is it?


Madeline said...

I agree that putting a price on a child's life is distasteful. But what's the alternative? If Disney was liable for the death then they should have to face some sort of penalty. Fear of a lawsuit is often the only thing keeping corporations in line, sadly.

JJ Beazley said...

I agree up to a point, but there are other sanctions that could be applied - like making directors personally liable, or even disallowing out-of-court settlements which enable the company to minimise the effect of the 'public relations bombshell.' And I find it unacceptable that overpaid lawyers can make huge fees out of a company's negligence, a child's death, and the suffering of the parents.

But what really troubles me is the notion that it's about COMPENSATION. That's the point I was trying to make. It's almost as though the company is saying 'Sorry you don't have a your little boy any more, but here's $1m and that'll make it better.' And then everybody goes away, happy that their beloved Disney has done a good deed and put the matter right.

This isn't a modern concept, of course. The idea that personal injury can be 'compensated' by monetary settlement goes back (or so I believe) to at least mediaeval times. And I've always found it incomprehensible because there's another question I've always had: Does the injured party FEEL compensated when they suddenly become rich? Are people so made that their grief can be salved by the acquisition of wealth? I don't know the answer to that one, but I do wonder.