(permanently) the 9/11 victim compensation fund to cover the poisoned Ground Zero first responders who are now sick and dying at a tragically rapid pace. I don’t think we need to remind folks about how Jon Stewart has of Luis Alvarez who sat beside Stewart at House hearings last month. But I do think it’s important to remind everyone about the pros and cons of funds like this. There is no “con” to the 9/11 fund because realistically, there has never been a wrongdoer to sue and hold accountable in court. But of course, that’s not always the case.
Sometimes unusual national events like 9/11 lead to these kinds of funds. But over the years, funds have also been established as a result of pressure from corporations or institutions involved in colossal misconduct. The BP oil spill. The GM ignition switch scandal. The problem is not only the limited amount of fund money that is often available to victims, but also the fact that disputes are resolved in administrative systems rather than by a court. The right to trial by jury is eliminated. That means facts about misconduct are typically kept secret and accountability for wrongdoing is gone or severely weakened.
Just this week, two other victim compensation funds have made news that illustrate these points. First is one concerning sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The Wall Street Journal just ran a about a similar fund set up by the Church in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Notably, unlike neighboring New York and New Jersey, Pennsylvania has yet to lift the statute of limitations for suits involving the sexual abuse of children. It is unclear when—or if—that will happen.
Meanwhile, the church set up a compensation fund for victims of clergy sexual abuse. the WSJ, “In exchange for accepting money from the program, the diocese won’t have to release any documents that might show what church officials knew about the alleged abuse. [Victims] also would be barred from suing the church [even if their rights are later restored by statute].
Payouts pale compared with what victims have won in court. Those who accept settlements must agree not to sue the church in the future.…
Eric Deabill, a spokesman for the Diocese of Scranton, said helping survivors of abuse was the priority. “Across the country, dioceses facing abuse litigation have been forced into bankruptcy,” he said. “This program balances the sincere desire to promote healing for sex abuse survivors while enabling the core mission of the Diocese to continue.”
But for some, the money isn’t enough, raising the prospect that the crisis could drag on for years. Many alleged victims want access to church records about their alleged abusers. Taking a case to court is a chance to make public any evidence that church officials hid the abuse.
Time is running short for [abuse survivor] Mr. Pliska, 55 years old, to decide. The church has set a July 31 deadline. “The church shouldn’t be the judge,” he said of the program. “They should be held accountable.”
Also this week is news that the California Legislature a bill to “set up a fund to help compensate victims for losses from fires started by the utilities’ equipment,” as compensation to victims is threatened by the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas & Electric, the utility responsible for recent devastating fires.
PG&E has estimated that its liability from recent fires exceeds $30 billion. Investigators found that its equipment was responsible last year for the worst wildfire in state history, the Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise. Under California legal doctrine, utilities are liable for fire damage caused by their equipment, even if no negligence is involved.…
The legislation is aimed at improving the financial health of the big investor-owned utilities — which include Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric — and preventing further bankruptcies as climate change makes fires more frequent and destructive. The state is concerned that without its intervention, investors and creditors will shun the companies, potentially starving them of financing.…
Advocates for wildfire victims praised the legislation, Assembly Bill 1054.
“With fire season fast approaching, and so many existing victims still struggling, putting A.B. 1054’s protections into practice quickly is going to make a tremendous difference,” said Patrick McCallum, a leader of the advocacy group Up From the Ashes, who lost his 米兜彩票电脑版 in a 2017 fire that ravaged Northern California’s wine region. “It’s our best hope going forward.”
Yes, in this case it might be their best hope going forward. It is just good to keep in mind that sometimes these funds end up being manipulated by political forces and can become a nightmare for those they were originally meant to help. Just ask Jon Stewart.