Insurance Lawyer Reviews Damage in Superhero Movies

This drink, I like it.

I know. It’s great, right?

Another. (ceramic crashes)

Acts of God are what we call natural phenomenon,

earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes,

and not acts of a God, like someone like Thor.

My name is Stacey Giulianti.

I’m an insurance attorney.

I’ve been in the insurance field for 30 years.

Today, we’ll be looking at insurance cases

in both superhero movies and television shows.

This scene is from Man of Steel.

(dramatic music)

(tires squealing)

(truck crashing)

(explosions booming)

It gives me, like, anxiety as an insurance lawyer

and as a claims adjuster looking at this type of damage.

Absolutely, within enough time, adjusters will go out

and they will calculate the exact amount of damage for this,

even if it’s city-wide.

There’s certainly structural problems

once Zod and Superman go smashing through it.

You’re gonna have to take that building down.

That’s actually a lot easier of a calculation

because of what we have the Valued Policy Law,

and what it says is that if a property is damaged,

we don’t fight over how much it’s gonna cost to repair.

The insurance company pays out the amount listed

on the policy, end of story.

In addition, each individual floor or business

would have their own business owner’s policy,

with all of the items covered in their offices.

They would take a look at the face value

that’s on their business owner policy for property,

and the insurance companies would write that check

at a cost of at least 20 million per floor

of the skyscraper.

Not only is it the damage to the buildings,

but to all the businesses that won’t be able to operate,

all of the living expenses people will need to be paid,

all of the trucks and vehicles and cars that are damaged,

roads that will need to be replaced.

Not all of that is covered by insurance,

but for that part that is,

it’s going to be hundreds and hundreds

of billions of dollars.

I don’t see an individual responsible here

that you could hold liable.

You certainly aren’t gonna hold the alien General Zod.

We have Superman fighting for his very life.

There is almost no liability in the court

for property damage when you are defending your own life.

Call me crazy, but I think if someone’s trying

to terraform your planet,

you got a right to kick their butt.

If this is an act of terrorism,

then it would typically be covered

by the insurance companies

and it’s called the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

Now, prior to 9/11, insurance policies

didn’t exclude terrorism.

They require insurance companies to ensure terrorist acts

but after a certain limit,

the federal government will put its money,

up to a certain limit,

to pay for damages caused from terrorist acts.

Now, terrorist acts must be certified

by the federal government as an act of terrorism.

You can’t go to court and say,

Well, this was an act of terrorism.

One of the big exclusions

in virtually all insurance policies

is what we we call acts of war.

If someone is trying to take over your country,

you could argue that that’s an act of war

and property insurance is excluded.

It’s not covered.

The reason acts of wars are excluded

is because it’s so much damage.

It’s too much for us to handle.

General Zod is trying to terraform the earth.

To me, that’s an act of war,

and there won’t be any money coming

from the insurance companies.

This clip is from The Batman.

(engine revving)

Come on!

(tires squealing)

(horn honking)

(The Penguin screaming)

The Penguin, not negligently, but intentionally,

caused an accident in order to throw his pursuers

off of his trail.

In terms of property damage, you have the value

of the tractor trailer, which appeared to be carrying fuel,

at least three or four other trucks,

along with private vehicles damaged,

each one would have been a total loss, no doubt in my mind.

So you’re talking well over a million dollars in damage.

We see Batman going around the vehicles,

and, honestly, doing his best not to impact

any other cars.

I do see, however, an issue with Batman towards the end.

(engine revving)

(cars smashing)

(The Penguin moaning)

That’s not an act of negligence.

That’s an act of recklessness

and recklessness is something that the Batman

would actually be liable for.

This might be controversial, but I’m gonna say it.

Batman is a cop.

Batman is called in by the bat signal

in order to catch a fugitive or to stop a crime

or solve a crime.

That is something the government does.

If you’re acting on behalf of the state,

you can’t do what the government can’t do.

You can’t search somebody without a warrant.

You can’t shake them until they give you a confession

in violation of the Fifth Amendment

of the United States Constitution,

just because you’re a private person.

On the one hand, he has qualified immunity.

He’s protected from regular negligence.

If he causes some damage and he’s not being reckless,

he is protected the same way

as a regular police officer would be.

But if he goes out of his way to be reckless

when he smashes The Penguin’s car,

he would be liable for that,

because no one, including the police,

would be protected from a reckless act like that.

(car thumping)

This scene is from Spider-Man: Homecoming.

(Robber 1) Told you it was working.

(Robber 2) Go, go, go.

(laser device crackles)

(Robber 2) Oh, nice.

(Spider-Man) What’s up guys? Forget your pin number?

(laser zaps)

(punch thuds) (robbers groan)

(Spider-Man) Four whole-

Now you gotta be careful

in terms of the legal issues here.

He’s not trying to save life, he’s trying to save property,

and that’s a big legal distinction that we make.

The Good Samaritan rule says

if you’re going to save somebody, especially someone’s life,

and you cause damage, say you’re rescuing someone

from drowning and you break their arm, you’re not liable

for breaking their arm because you saved their life.

He’s not saving any lives.

He’s merely trying to protect property.

(glass tinkling) (robber groaning)

(alarm blaring)

(laser zapping)

(bricks thudding)

By getting involved and not letting them take the money

and leaving, he causes additional damage to that bank area

as well as to the building that it’s in and the deli.

Once an insurance company pays out for damages

in order to repair these buildings,

they’ll do what’s called subrogation.

They subrogate or they collect against those

that are responsible.

Now, he didn’t cause the damage to the ATM,

pulling it out of the wall,

but when he starts throwing them around

in order to stop them as opposed to just webbing them up,

that type of damage he would be liable for.

Meaning but for his actions,

there would have been less damage.

ATMs are about $10,000.

The glass and the poster, (cash register chiming)

the window and the metal framing,

probably another 15 or $20,000.

There was probably ceiling damage,

if we looked at it (cash register chimes)

a little bit more intently,

that you’re probably talking about $50,000 in damage

to redo the facade on the bank side.

You then on the deli side and on that commercial property,

you’ve got this laser-type object

going right through the wall.

You’re probably talking about

total of about $300,000 in damage.

(lamp pole clinks)

(Spider-Man) Oh, come on.

Now, more interesting is the deli

and the building across the street.

The deli would have what’s called the BOP,

the business owner’s policy.

Part of that coverage, which you can also purchase,

is called business interruption coverage,

any of the losses that you sustained

from not being in business.

If that store was making $20,000 a month,

the insurance company would pay them $20,000 a month

until they were back on their feet.

And so then the question arises is,

is he liable for his actions?

And the answer generally in the law is yes.

So in this case, Spider-Man would be held,

by virtually all courts, liable for any damage

or additional damage that he caused.

This scene is from Venom.

(victim groaning)

(Venom gurgling)

(ominous music)

(Venom) So many snacks, so little time.

(gun clicking)

(metal clinking)

Let’s start by looking at the damages.

Venom jumps on and destroys probably four vehicles

(cash register chiming)

and then smashes the facade of a building

and then goes through a column stone fence into the water

as he escapes.

Probably looking at no more

than 150 or $200,000 worth of damage.

But what’s interesting is that automobiles

have various coverages,

and if you don’t have the right coverage,

your vehicle will not be covered for the damage.

Most people only have

what’s called property damage coverage.

It doesn’t cover your car,

it covers the car that you hit.

So if you only have property damage coverage,

and you get into some kind of accident or damage,

your vehicle doesn’t get get paid for

by the insurance company.

The other two policies are called comprehensive

and collision.

Collision is when a vehicle hits another vehicle

or a stationary object.

The insurance company will pay at that time

for the damage to the vehicle.

Comprehensive is everything else.

A fire, a tree falling on top it,

even an animal striking the vehicle.

And in this case, Venom, almost like an animal,

an alien symbiote, smashes into your vehicle.

So for those people,

if they don’t have what’s called comprehensive insurance,

the insurance company will not be writing a check

to those people.

(Venom gurgling)

What the hell are you?

I am Venom. Think of yourself as my ride.

He’s an equal part to Eddie living inside him.

Eddie didn’t actually cause any of the damage himself.

Venom caused the damage,

which raises an interesting liability issue

because if someone is carjacked

and forced to be the getaway driver for a bank robbery,

they’re not responsible.

They did it under what we call duress.

Duress is a legal term where you’re forced to do something

often under the threat of violence or you could get hurt.

Cooperate and you might just survive.

That’s duress if I’ve ever heard it.

So to hold Eddie responsible for this seems very unlikely.

No insurance company is gonna say that you have liability.

Now, we’re not talking about mental illness,

multiple personality disorder.

Courts have often found that that’s not an excuse

because it’s still the same person,

even if you claim to have multiple people living in you.

But in this case, Eddie really does have someone else

living in him.

And you would say,

Well, we’ve never really had that situation.

And the fact is, we did have that situation.

Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins,

would often go out to a bar,

and Chang, one half of the conjoined twins,

would drink too much and get into a bar fight.

He knocked a guy out cold, committed a battery,

and he was arrested.

So Chang and Eng were brought before the judge,

and the judge had to make a decision.

Did he jail Chang, who committed a battery,

but also the conjoined twin Eng,

who didn’t do anything wrong,

or did he let them both go?

And the judge in that decision said,

I can’t put an innocent man in jail

for this type of crime.

And he let them both go.

This scene is from The Boys.

When you ever besmirch Billy-

(horn honks) (A-Train rumbles)

Superheroes, absolutely, if they exist,

are gonna make mistakes.

How does the law hold these superheroes accountable

or not accountable for their actions?

In some instances, you would think that the law would say,

They’re helping.

They’re doing more good than bad,

and they therefore we’re not gonna hold them liable.

And we have that in some instances, right?

Qualified immunity protects police officers,

or in this case superheroes,

if they’re acting in the course and scope of their duties.

It’s qualified by certain rules.

I was chasing these bank robbers.

If you’re going to save money that was stolen from a bank

and you’re going to cause additional destruction

and in this case death,

qualified immunity most likely would not protect you.

The attorneys for A-Train and for the corporation

come to him and they wanna resolve the matter.

Now, you two weren’t married,

and look, technically, there’s no legal claim,

but Vought wants to do the right thing.

If I were representing Hughie,

I would absolutely not sign that non-disclosure agreement.

The lawyer tells him that he doesn’t have a cause of action,

and that’s true for wrongful death.

However, there is a separate tort,

and a tort is when someone is injured,

called negligent infliction of emotional distress,

and there’s an argument to be made by a good lawyer

that he would have the right to collect

for causing you great emotional and mental distress

by their negligent acts.

If he was to file a lawsuit,

he would be entitled to what’s called discovery,

where you get documents and deposition testimony

from people at the company and the superheroes

in order to get evidence for your liability case.

That may be where he can dig up more dirty laundry.

He could take that information and put it out to the world.

Robin. Robin!

If you’re looking at the emotional distress,

you could calculate it as an amount per day

that an average person would take

in order for you to have this kind of pain in your life.

I would ask the jury

for $100 a day (cash register chiming)

for every day for the rest of Hughie’s life,

because he’s gonna have to remember

that horrific scene of holding Robin’s hands

and her blood all over him and the street.

If you wanted to send a higher-level message,

you would go after what we call punitive damages.

Punitive damages have nothing to do with compensating.

It’s meant to punish the corporation for acts

that they knew or should have known could have happened.

However, insurance does not cover punitive damages.

That has to come out of the corporation’s pocket,

which is what makes it so painful for them.

Let’s assume a company like this

is bringing in $60 billion a year in revenue.

It would be very easy to ask the jury for 1% of that,

which would be $600 million.

You could ask for 10% and go for $6 billion

if you wanted to.

No company wants to pay 1%

or certainly not 10% of their income for one case.

This scene is from Avengers: Infinity War.

(voices chattering)

(dust whooshing)

(explosion booming)

If half of humanity disappeared, it would almost

be impossible to calculate the total amount of damage

to all of those lives that disappeared,

all of the productivity.

So as far as I’m concerned,

that amount of damage, incalculable.

If someone disappears,

life insurance has some very interesting rules

that govern it.

It would take seven years for you to petition a court

in order to prove that somebody was dead,

get that death certificate issued,

and collect on the life insurance proceed.

Now, if they pay you and then the people come back,

and as we find out half the population comes back,

the insurance companies would require you

to pay that money back plus interest.

It’s important to know that insurance companies

don’t like files open.

They would try to settle the claims with you.

Instead of paying you the full amount of the face value,

say a hundred thousand on a life insurance policy,

we’ll pay you a settlement amount, say 70,000.

If you agree to that and you collect that money,

you do not have to pay it back when they’re found alive

because that’s a separate agreement

and you get to keep that cash.

This scene is from Hawkeye.

Get down-

(engine revving)

(people screaming)

(van squeaking)

There’s no doubt that the moving van

has lost its value as a moving van

and is therefore a total loss.

What are you gonna do?

Use that moving van now?

You gonna move, what, dollhouse items back and forth?

Of course not.

However, here’s the problem.

This van belongs to the bad guys.

And if a vehicle is being used in any criminal activity

like that by either the owner or a permitted driver,

insurance will not cover it.

Criminal activity is an exclusion in every policy.

If superheroes suddenly popped up,

the insurance world would have to change dramatically.

It would require the industry to take a look

at all of their policies and start looking at new perils,

lasers, aliens, super villains,

all of those things that don’t exist now.

We’d have to take a look at it, find out how to cover those,

how to exclude those if necessary,

and more importantly, how to charge for that risk.

Insurance provides peace of mind

and if the worst should happen,

they’re there to provide the money

to put you back in the place you were before that incident.

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