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Pa Supreme Court Says Governmental Damages Caps are Constitutional

As a follow up to my previous post on governmental statutory damages caps, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that such caps on awards against governmental entities are constitutional.  This tragic case involved a 14 year old student who lost her leg from an injury caused by the negligence of a school bus driver.  The student was standing on a side walk with other students when the school bus driver accidently pressed the gas pedal instead of the break.  The bus jumped the curb striking the student, crushing her leg and pelvis.  At trial she was awarded $14 million dollars by the jury for her injuries but the verdict was molded (or reduced) to $500,000 which is the statutory cap placed on damages against governmental entities in Pennsylvania.  

Some of the justices issuing the opinion expressed their disappointment in the ruling, stating that the state legislature should get involved to amend the laws and perhaps raise or lift the damages cap.  Justice Max Baer stated, "It is my hope that the legislature will become cognizant of its oversight through this case, raise the cap to a level that is obviously constitutional, and thereby protecting the people it serves while safeguarding governmental entities by allowing for or, indeed, mandating reasonable insurance to protect them in an amount equivalent to the statutory damages cap."

The plaintiff is obviously disappointed in the ruling but she is now taking action in hopes of having the legislature address the statutory caps issue so that future victims can be made whole.

Source:  "Pa. Supreme Court Upholds Governmental Damages Cap", by P.J. D'Annunzio, The Legal Intelligencer, November 21, 2014

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