New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Boston Marathon


May 29th, 2013

Liability for Boston Marathon Bombings?

So apparently there was a panel discussion held by 500+ lawyer firm Edwards Wildman Palmer on potential liability for the Boston Marathon bombings. You can read an article about it in the National Law Journal here, but this is the lede:

Government agencies probably won’t face much liability from those physically or fiscally harmed by the Boston Marathon bombings, but the race sponsors could prove vulnerable depending on the terms of their insurance policies.

No, they didn’t invite me to participate. But given that I do personal injury work, have run my share of marathons (including two Bostons and 13 New Yorks), and am the founder and race director of a popular 1/2 marathon race, I figure this subject is pretty damn close to my wheelhouse.

So here’s the answer on potential liability: No. As in, it won’t happen, no way, no how, you gotta be kidding me, and I can’t believe there was actually a panel discussion regarding it. Was someone just looking to create topics to burnish their CLE credentials? Did someone need to buff the old resume a bit?

OK, enough snark, this is the reason there won’t be liability: You simply can’t control a 26.2 mile race course in a free society that rambles along public streets in a big city. It’s hard enough just stopping locals from colliding with runners as they push strollers across the course trying to get to breakfast/church/stores; there is no way to control it all.

The cost of trying to implement such control is prohibitive both in cost — all those cops don’t come cheap and someone has to pay for them — and in freedom. We don’t charge people $5,000 to run races and we don’t turn our cities into police states in order to stage events that are designed as communal celebrations of life.

Will there be some changes in big events? Sure. We saw a bunch after the September 11 attack (runners can only bring clear bags into the athletes village at the start and they are subject to search, for example), and we saw some recently in a race Central Park, but this will not stop a determined bomber who will simply find another spot on the route, or a mass transit vehicle, or restaurant or bar, etc. You can’t protect it all, just ask the Israelis.

So BigLaw thinks this is worth a panel discussion. But if calls came to my SmallLaw office from a potential client, they would be unlikely to get get their feet in the door.

(hat tip Overlawyered)

5 thoughts on “Liability for Boston Marathon Bombings?

  1. Back on April 19 we had this dialog in the comments about the bombing:

    OG: “So, in your informed opinion, who will be sued and for what failing? (I’m not morbid, just curious.)”

    Eric: “I can’t conceive of anyone being successfully sued; if you live in a free society, you live yourself open to such things.”

    I accept your point about “successful”, but the BigLaw event you describe above clearly shows that others (perhaps licking their well-tailored lips) are thinking otherwise.

    I just finished reading the latest issue of New York Magazine wherein there is a major spread about “the top ten personal injury law firms in New York”. There are some big dollar award sums being bragged about. There is also a lot of “me Tarzan” posturing in the associated partner portraits. Think of the famous picture of Bane Capital partners, but in this case without the Benjamins ostentatiously hanging out of their clothes (but virtual ones are implied, to be sure).

    One of these dudes has got be thinking of giving it a try, doomed in advance or not, rational or not, or my seven decades of people-watching has been for naught.

    Yours, I believe, is a voice crying in the wilderness. I applaud it.

  2. BigLaw generally does defense. They wouldn’t be the ones bringing such an action on behalf of individuals and small businesses. They would hope to defend Boston Athletic Assoc if it were stupidly sued.

  3. Even small law sometimes does defense. It does not get much smaller than my office, and I usually defend cases.

    Considering the facts in this one, I’d much rather have the Boston Athletic Club than the plaintiff in such a case. Sure loser, and the lawyer that takes the plaintiff’s case on contingency is too hungry to be thinking clearly.

    Small law could surely defend the case faster and cheaper than big law if someone foolishly brings suit.

    Disclaimer: I am not licensed in Mass, and probably could not be relied upon to find my way up there for a pro hac vice, so I shall have no involvement in any litigation.

  4. I think the phrase you’re looking for is “link bait”. In other words they just got you to link to their profile on American Lawyer didn’t they? And, of course, they got an article about it published in the National Law Journal. So from a cheap publicity point of view, their panel discussion was rousing success.

    And of course, as Old Geezer said, it’s the “successful” part that is in question. As you obviously know, people who smell money will sue for the most spurious of reasons.

  5. Applicable law as to lack of liability goes way back too. In California, the 1980’s: McDonald’s restaurant mass murder attack held not foreseeable, and any breach of duty on part of restaurant owner in failing to have unarmed uniformed guards on premises was not a proximate cause of the injuries sustained by plaintiffs. Lopez v. McDonald’s Corp. (1987) 193 Cal.App.3d 495.