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There has been a lot of speculation that the University of Notre Dame will move quickly to settle a potential wrongful death lawsuit involving the tragic death of student Declan Sullivan. As of now, there has been no report of a settlement of this incident.
One reason maybe that OSHA, the investigating agency, has not released its findings into the cause of Sullivan’s accident. If OSHA is critical of Notre Dame’s football program for allegedly pushing Sullivan to work on a dangerous lift, the case could be worth a considerable sum.
Well, how much then? Some commentators have postulated that the wrongful death could be worth around $30 million. While valuing a particular case is not a perfect science (but a very important aspect of the legal practice), it is important to consider that Indiana law will allow a jury to assess Declan’s “conscious pain and suffering” before his death. Technically this means, the conscious pain and suffering a person sustained after the accident but before his death. This could be a very short period (i.e. seconds) of time in accidents like a collapse of a scissor lift.
But, juries often (whether knowingly or not) will factor in the “fear of death” that can occur before the accident happens into the equation. We know that Declan tweeted about how dangerous it was to be on the lift that tragic day and had a true “fear” of his impending death (which unfortunately occurred). Given this fact, Notre Dame cannot allow a jury to put a price tag on the fear of death of a 20 year old student. A jury verdict could be devastating on the issue alone, and I am not including lost wages and the pain and suffering of his family.