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The Quy Nguyen Case: Lawmaker Urges Rise in Damage Cap
Kansas City Star

On Thursday, the Kansas City Council approved a $100,000 settlement for the family of Quy Nguyen, the 23-month-old boy who died last August when he fell into a 7-foot-deep pit left uncovered by city workers.

Anita Porte Robb, attorney for the family and a strong opponent of damage caps for municipalities, called the sum "meager." She said the award is the result of an archaic law designed to keep citizens from challenging the sovereign power of the government.

Missouri Rep. Brian May of St. Louis is sponsoring a bill that would increase the maximum settlement for one person from $100,000 to $300,000. He discusses his bill and the history of damage caps for municipalities.

Q: Why is there a damage cap in place for municipalities in wrongful-death suits when private companies are paying multimillion-dollar settlements?

A: It stems from the common law theory that the king could do no wrong. Obviously, that is an antiquated notion and one that doesn't comport with present-day reality. I guess the theory is that taxpayers, in essence, fund the municipality or the city, and therefore there are limited resources.

Q: What happens to individuals or families in Missouri whose actual damages exceed the $100,000 cap? Are they left to cover the cost or loss through personal resources?

A: We had people testify before my committee, and there was one particular young man who was in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, he was involved in an accident, but was doubly unfortunate to be involved with the highway department. He is in a wheelchair, and his mother

testified about the expenses. They were far in excess of $100,000. But the State of Missouri, through its laws and through the policy of sovereign immunity, basically says, "Tough luck, you're on your own."

Q: Do you think damage caps allow municipalities to be more relaxed with the enforcement of safety and inspection procedures?

A: Absolutely. I think that from a policy standpoint it encourages municipalities and cities to be less concerned about the condition of their property and the manner in which their motor vehicles are operated. I'll give you an example.

In the city of St. Louis, in 1990, a 6-year-old boy died in my district when a tree limb fell in a city park onto his parents' mini van and he was crushed to death. The city of St. Louis was found to be negligent for failing to maintain the trees in a proper way in terms of trimming, and a jury awarded that young man's family $500,000.

Automatically, the state of Missouri, through its laws, came in and said: 'Nope. Sorry, jury, we're going to reduce that to $100,000.' So what kind of message does that send to the city of St. Louis? Here it was found negligent for failing to maintain its trees in a proper order, but at the same time it knows it has to pay no more than $100,000.

And I'm not saying that the city, or any other entity, does this intentionally, but I think it does come into play eventually that maybe resources should be spent elsewhere and we don't have to worry about being accountable in terms of lawsuits because we're protected by this cap.

Q: How does the bill you're sponsoring propose to alleviate some of the disadvantages associated with the damage cap?

A: It doesn't do enough, to be honest with you, but it's a move in the right direction. It would raise the cap to $300,000. When I say it doesn't do enough, I mean I question whether $300,000 is enough to compensate the gentleman in the wheelchair or the family with the 6-year-old boy.

And I say: No, it isn't. But in regard to being practical and what's going on in the legislature, $300,000 I think is reasonable, and I think at the same time takes into consideration some of the concerns municipalities may have in terms of increased cost.

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Personal Injury Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Personal injury is an area of law that pertains to the injury of an individual. Both physical and emotional injuries fall into this branch of tort law. A personal injury lawyer is generally involved in cases where an injury has occurred due to the negligence of another party.

Examples of cases that a personal injury lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri can assist with include workplace accidents, falling or other accidents in the home, premises liability, defective and hazardous product cases, and dental and medical malpractice cases. If negligence on behalf of another party can be proved in court, compensation may be awarded.

Personal injury attorneys can also assist with industrial disease cases that may include respiratory diseases or a decline in health due to hazardous occupational conditions. These and other medical cases are often very complex, and it is advised that all aspects of the claim be handled by an experienced attorney.

Wrongful Death Lawyers - Kansas City, Missouri

Wrongful death falls under the common law jurisdictions wherein a person may be held liable for a death. It is important to note that wrongful death is the only course of legal action in which a company, rather than an individual, is at fault for a death.

In Kansas City, Missouri, cases involving wrongful death accidents require a preponderance of evidence as the standard of proof. Generally, the suit is filed by close relatives.

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

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