TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Southwestern Law School

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bizarro Bifurcation

In a reversal of trial order that puts me in a Seinfeld mood, the plaintiffs in a roof-collapse case have been awarded $1.2 million in damages (see also Theme Law).  Edit: It occurs to me that a better reference is, of course, Alice in Wonderland and its "Sentence first -- verdict afterwards!" line.  Not sure what it says about me that I thought of a Seinfeld episode first, but so it goes.

Kind of.

The case resulted from the 2002 death of a woman visiting Kennywood amusement park in Pittsburgh (a park, incidentally, we visited on our honeymoon).  A very large storm arose incredibly quickly, and the roof over the Whip ride collapsed on those who had sought shelter under it.  Various injured parties alleged negligent design, maintenance, etc.; most of the claims settled, but the fatality claim did not.

In what I assume was an effort to set damages to facilitate settlement (or is there some other reason I don't see?), the case was reverse bifurcated, with damages being evaluated first.  The jury concluded (and the defendant seems content to accept) that the damages were $1.2 million.  But of course, there's no guarantee that they'll get any, since liability comes next (making the Post Gazette's headline -- "Victim's family awarded $1.2 million in roof collapse" -- a bit inaccurate).

And now the parties are turning to liability, with the plaintiffs' counsel alleging that the building was not built to code, and Kennywood arguing that, given the extent of the damages around the area, the park is not at fault.


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