Posted On: August 3, 2007 by Christopher T. Hurley

Minneapolis bridge collapse demonstrates that tort immunity leads to complacency

The I-35W Bridge collapse in Minneapolis shows that tort immunity that shields states and municipalities from liability for negligence leads to complacency, neglect and disaster. Citizens assumed that teams of qualified professionals made sure the bridge was safe for use and would not fail--or that we would be warned if it was dangerous to use the bridge. The bridge was not safe, the state's professionals knew it, yet no warnings came.

The same people who knew of the danger of the bridge, and did nothing, will likely never be held accountable for their complacency, due to state tort immunities which protect state officials from negligence claims. The only ones who will pay for this lack of responsibility are the friends and loved ones of those who died or were injured in the collapse.

Tort immunity, a concept that shields governments from liability in injury cases, may prevent those injured and the families of those killed from ever obtaining justice in this tragedy. After the recovery effort has finished, and the investigations are complete, talented lawyers will try vigorously to hold the responsible governmental and private entities accountable. Hopefully tort immunity will not block their efforts.

Efforts at protecting people, companies and government entities whose actions can kill and injure, commonly called tort reform and tort immunity, serve only to breed complacency and sanction irresponsible behavior. Tort reform and tort immunity are bad for everyone. The lawyers at my firm remain committed to the fight against tort reform.

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