ESPN looked to our own Kenneth J. Allen for his expertise this week in its coverage of the tragic death of Declan Sullivan, 20, who died while on the job as a Notre Dame football videographer. Sullivan perished after falling from a scaffold while he was taping football practice. Fifty-one mile per hour (51 mph) winds have been blamed for causing Declan’s death.
Citing Kenneth J. Allen as a “highly successful trial lawyer in Valparaiso,” ESPN provided its listeners and readers with his expertise regarding Indiana injury law: the sad truth is that the laws of Indiana favor big companies and insurance companies, not people like Declan Sullivan and his surviving loved ones.
And it’s bad. Since Sullivan died young and without a wife or kids, his worker’s compensation coverage under Indiana worker’s compensation laws comes to $7500.00. That’s it.
What about a lawsuit? The Sullivans could file against the manufacturer of the scaffold – a scissor lift – that failed. This would be a products liability case under Indiana law, not federal law. They could also sue any other company that dealt with the lift: from the leasing company, to the repair company, etc. — but as Kenneth J. Allen explained to ESPN readers, the Sullivan family would have a small likelihood of victory here.
Why? There’s a safety law that states no one is supposed to be working from scaffolds when there are high winds, unless someone in the know has okayed it as being safe, and they’ve implemented safety precautions against the winds, like a wind screen. As Kenneth Allen explained to ESPN, the claims have to deal with this legislation as well.
So, what happens? Outside of the legal system, it appears that the parties will be trying to find justice on their own. As ESPN reports, Notre Dame’s president has written an open letter, sent by email to the entire Notre Dame community on Friday, stating, “Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe. …We at Notre Dame, and ultimately I, as president, are responsible.”
Indiana law does not favor the Sullivans. However, obviously Notre Dame abides by a higher law than this — and hopefully, justice is resulting from this sad, sad situation.
Our condolences to the family and friends of Declan Sullivan – and we tip our hat to Rev. John Jenkins for writing this letter.