Patrick Rishe, a writer for Forbes' SportsMoney blog, has calculated that Declan Sullivan's death could cost Notre Dame close to $30 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Sullivan, a videographer for the Fighting Irish football team, died last week when the 50-foot scissor tower he was filming practice from collapsed in 50-mph winds. He was 20 years old.
Rishe catalogs a number of possible lawsuit scenarios if, as is expected, the university is deemed liable for negligence or misconduct in Sullivan's death. Unless, Riche explains, it turns out that Sullivan was up on the lift without permission or if he was told to come down but ignored the demand, "the athletics department staff will shoulder between 80-100% of the blame for this incident."
Rishe explains that compensatory damages differ by state, but generally:
the law provides for (a) expenses incurred by the death of the victim (e.g. funeral, medical, etc.), (b) loss of future earnings anticipated over the victim's lifetime, and (c) pain, suffering and mental anguish incurred by survivors (in this case, the parents and sibilings of Mr. Sullivan).
Add this to punitive damages, which are meant to deter future incidents, and in Indiana can be as much as three times the amount of the compensatory award. According to Rishe, the plaintiff can receive up to 25% of that total, which could be a really big number. He concludes:
if compensatory damages are awarded in a fashion consistent with the calculations herein, AND if hit with the maximum allowable punitive damages...the Declan Sullivan tragedy may cost the University of Notre Dame between $15-20M in compensatory damages and another $45-60M in punitive damages. I estimate that the entire incident will cost Notre Dame $30M collectively in mostly compensatory damages with some punitive damages.
$30 million is no small portion of the football program's estimated $108 million value or its $9 million yearly contract with NBC. It seems only right that, with or without a settlement, the school should provide a more permanent form of remembrance for Declan Sullivan. An endowed scholarship seems like a good place to start—and let me be the first to suggest that it should be funded exclusively by Brian Kelly's retirement fund.
Declan Sullivan's Death Could Cost Notre Dame $30 Million [Forbes SportsMoney]