The Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic

    Disaster Repreparations - CASE STUDY


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    Disaster Repreparations - CASE STUDY Empty Disaster Repreparations - CASE STUDY

    Post by Admin on Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:41 pm

    Disaster Repreparations

    In the aftermath of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States Congress passed the Victim Compensation Fund, which provided monetary compensation to the families of victims of the Sept. 11th attacks, as part of the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act,, which was passed and signed into law on September 22, 2001. The legislation provided funding for the families of victims to be compensated on the basis of projected lifetime income in much the same way that they would have been compensated in successful lawsuits. In order to be eligible to receive aid from the fund, the families had to waive their right to sue the airlines for damages. The principal purpose of the legislation was the save the airlines from economic ruin after the terrorist attacks. If the families of the victims sued the airlines, so Congress reasoned, the airlines would quickly collapse, having already been weakened by the reduced air travel after September 11. If the airlines collapsed, the United States economy would be devastated.

    Victims of other disasters quickly complained of the inequity. The families of victims in the Oklahoma City bombing pointed out that they, too, were victims of a terrorist attack. The victims of families of victims of the first attack against the World Trade Center, in 1993, pointed out that they were victims of an attack against the same building by the same organization. What of victims of attacks against United States embassies, or against the USS Cole? The list grows quickly, and the similarities seem greater than the differences.

    Nor has there been unity within the ranks of the families of victims. Basing awards on presumptive earning power, the government appeared ready to provide much bigger awards to some than others. Furthermore, offsetting benefits such as insurance policies were deducted from the award, even though in some cases these other benefits were not in fact paid to the families.

    This raises a number of fundamental questions about responsibility, both individual and government. To what extent is the federal government responsible to the families of victims of terrorist attacks? What principles guide your decision in this case? How do these principles then apply to victims of other disasters—crime victims, natural disaster victims, victims of industrial accidents, etc.


    Source: Lisa Belkin, “Just Money,” New York Times Magazine, December 8, 2002.

    (c) Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE)

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