When you studied negligence last week, you learned that a company is responsible for the negligent acts of employees. The Imperial Sugar disaster appears to involve a variety of negligent acts by employees. The company faced 45 separate lawsuits filed by injured employees or their families.
One case involved a 19 year old college student (and football player) who had a full and active life prior to the accident. On the day of the explosion, he was working in the building as a janitor. He was burned over 85% of his body, spent six months in a medically induced coma, and had more than 70 surgeries in the two years following the disaster, creating $17 million in medical expenses. The recovery process for burn victims is very long, difficult, and painful. When this student left the hospital, his parents had to help him with daily activities like getting dressed.
Damages in a negligence case are meant to put a victim back into the position they were in before the accident. Juries are required to determine what about money will accomplish that goal. It must be a specific dollar amount that is awarded at the conclusion of the lawsuit so juries anticipate what the future holds for the victim in terms of medical care, employment, and other areas of life that are changed as a result of the injuries. In addition to the damages awarded based on the needs of the victim, sometimes a jury will award punitive damages that are meant to punish the person responsible for the negligence and to discourage other people from being careless.
Imagine that you are a juror hearing this case. Please post the specific dollar amount you would award in damages and then explain what lead you to choose that particular number. After you have posted, compare your response with your classmates and comment on the differences in your approaches to resolving this case.