Minn. Victim Fund Bill Raises Questions on Caps, Insurer Reimbursement

January 24, 2008

United in a desire to provide state money to victims of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, Minnesota lawmakers are split over whether to cap those awards at $400,000 or leave the check size to a neutral decisionmaker.

Proposals aired Tuesday in a legislative hearing head in different directions, and a spokesman for Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he favors an upper limit.

Federal law is further complicating the discussion because insurance companies are entitled to recoup their costs from bridge victims if they get paid.

“It’s not our goal to compensate the insurance companies,” said Sen. Ron Latz, a Democrat from St. Louis Park. “We want to put money in the hands of our victims.”

Latz, the co-chairman of a joint House-Senate claims committee, is pushing a plan to provide victims up to $400,000 for lost income, medical expenses or mental anguish that is accompanied by a physical injury. That would be the award ceiling as well for survivors of the 13 people killed in the Aug. 1 collapse.

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