I hope everyone took the time last Saturday to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001.
There are two events in my personal history that I remember very well. I don’t have very vivid memories of much of my childhood, but I vividly remember the day President Kennedy was shot in 1963. I was in sixth grade at Bryant Elementary School. It was a cloudy November day, and I remember being kicked out of school without really understanding the magnitude of what had happened. It was a moment of great sadness.
Almost 38 years later, we have all witnessed the horror of 9/11, and I suspect we all remember the exact moment we realized that the first plane struck the first tower of the World Trade Center. I was in my law firm on 42nd Street and we all gathered around the television in the conference room to watch the horrific events of the day unfold. The assassination of President Kennedy was an unspeakable tragedy. Yet this event did not change America like the events of September 11.
The country united in unity after September 11 as never since World War II. Unfortunately, the unit has disappeared. The sadness of that day has never left most of us. The stories that have been told are firmly anchored in our memories.
One of the most significant stories of the time was that of Richard Rescorla, a hero of the Vietnam War who was a private security specialist for Stanley Dean Witter & Company and who is said to have led 2,700 security employees to the September 11, before losing his life when he returned to make sure everyone had left the building. Rescorla had feared the possibility of the exact scenario that occurred and had led her employer’s 2,700 employees on drills every three months in anticipation of an emergency evacuation. These exercises saved the lives of everyone except Rescorla.
Last Saturday I reread an article on Rescorla from The New Yorker magazine that was published in 2002. It was a long article, but worth every second. Rescorla was an immigrant from England. He is not portrayed in Mel Gibson’s film “We Were Soldiers”, but co-author of the book that led to the making of the film, General Hal Moore, described Rescorla as “the best platoon leader. that I have ever seen “. Members of his platoon nicknamed him “Hard Core” for his bravery in battle and compassion for his men. His bravery and compassion of 20 years ago are more than extraordinary.
Another story that comes to light is the story of Kenneth Feinberg, the special master who was appointed to administer the funds of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. His task was to put a monetary value on the 3,000 lives lost that day as well as the thousands of people injured. He had an unlimited budget to reimburse families for what could never be reimbursed.
The Washington Post published an article about Feinberg’s work last weekend, and there was a movie on Netflix called “Worth,” which tells the story of his work. Michael Keaton plays Feinberg. Feinberg also wrote a book, “What’s the Worth of Life?” The movie and the book are on my to-do list.
As a litigator who has handled too many wrongful death cases over the past 41 years, the question of a life’s worth is one that I struggle with in every case. I have the same speech in all cases. The case is not about the value of a life, but the value of the case. These are horrible words to pronounce, and they seem empty, almost obscene and meaningless when spoken. Of course, I preface it with words of consolation that no amount of money can replace the loss that has been suffered. I hate making this speech.
Sadly, most deaths are due to medical negligence, and the Missouri legislature has said in its limited wisdom that no life is worth more than $ 700,000. There is no limit to economic loss, including medical costs and the loss of financial support provided by the deceased, which is essentially nothing in cases where the deceased is retired or no longer working. .
It is difficult to explain to a client that there is a limit imposed by law on the most important part of the loss: the loss of the consortium, the company, the comfort, the advice and the advice caused by the loss. of a loved one. The legislature denied a jury the full right to decide the value of a life. An inflation provision in the law raised the limit to $ 775,000, but that is still not enough. I understand that the reason for the cap is to protect healthcare providers from excessive jury verdicts, but that logic is hollow and unconvincing when I explain it to my clients.
I don’t know what Rick Rescorla’s widow received from the Victims Compensation Fund. He is a true American hero who came to America to fight for the greatest country in the world in a war that could not be won. His life is priceless.
My former pastor served as a pastor at the funerals of six of my family and countless others I attended, and he always reminds us that our deceased loved ones are worth our tears. No truer word has been uttered. Yet the losses are immeasurable. Having dealt with over 100 wrongful death cases, I know this too well.
Bob Buckley is an Independence lawyer. Email him at [email protected]