Seismologists Tried For Manslaughter Due To Earthquake

from the legal-insanity dept

Capitalist Lion Tamer points us to a story that sounds like it should be in The Onion. However, it appears to be real that some Italian seismologists are being tried for manslaughter due to an earthquake that they failed to predict. The key was that apparently some of the seismologists had suggested that seismic activity in the area wasn't likely to lead to an earthquake... which turned out to be wrong:
At the time of the 31 March 2009 meeting, seismic activity had been going on in the area for more than three months, causing alarm in the population. De Bernardinis summoned the meeting and asked the scientists to assess the risk of a major earthquake and its possible consequences. The meeting was followed by a press conference by De Bernardinis and Barberi, where the two reassured the population that the seismic sequence did not necessarily hint at a major earthquake. De Bernardinis, in particular, appeared on television saying that “the scientific community tells me there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favorable”. A major earthquake did hit on April 6 though, killing 309 people. In the aftermath, many citizens quoted those statements as the reason they did not take precautionary measures, such as fleeing their homes. According to the accusation, many people who would otherwise leave the area decided to stay, and were eventually killed in the collapse of their houses.
That seems crazy, but the judge refused to dismiss the case, and it will apparently start this fall. What's next? Will someone sue the weatherman for being wrong?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Andrew F (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    The unsaid portion

    Mike, you left out the important part! These seismologists were also employed by Dr. Evil and had direct knowledge of his attempts to detonate nuclear devices beneath the earth's crust!

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 12:14pm

    When I was in college, I really wanted to visit Italy... However, recently with the more ridiculous news stories I hear coming out of Italy I all the sudden have no desire to get arrested.. I mean Travel There.

    cc: Italy Tourism Industry

     

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  3.  
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    John Doe, May 26th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    This is what the world is coming to

    With the blame everyone else mentality these days, nobody can take responsibility for their own actions and must lay the blame at the feet of others. Since it is their fault, they should also be sued. I hope this trial isn't in front of a jury because a jury is likely to rule against the scientists.

     

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    Christopher (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

    This is one time where the European Court should step in and tell Italy "NO NO NO! You do not try people for manslaughter for failing to realize that something would happen from something else! Especially when it involves nature and trying to predict it!"

     

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  5.  
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    another mike (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 12:38pm

    accessory

    It was the politard who said, "The nerds tell me there's no danger so you don't have to be prepared." He should be tried as an accessory.

    /be prepared

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Well, can we sue someone for not predicting the various tornadoes and hurricanes that have been responsible for killing many people?

     

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    Spaceboy (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 12:55pm

    If this goes through then maybe we would be able to sue the weatherman every time he gets it wrong.

     

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  8.  
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    Joe Publius (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 12:55pm

    Re:

    I think we can:

    The United States of America vs. Bill Paxton, Helen Hunt, et.al.

     

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  9.  
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    Joseph Kranak (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    Can we sue

    Can we sue the government officials and economic planners that sold us on the various bailout packages and economic recovery programs that were supposed to lead to economic recovery and haven't led to economic recovery?

     

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  10.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:07pm

    I don't know what it's like in Italy, but whenever U.S. scientists predict (or even warns against the possibility of) disaster everyone calls it fearmongering.

     

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  11.  
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    Jimbaux, May 26th, 2011 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Can we sue

    They weren't supposed to lead to economic recovery! They were supposed to prevent economic calamity, like breadlines and 20% unemployment!

    And they succeeded!

     

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  12.  
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    Vincent Clement (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:14pm

    This is the norm for Italy. Their standard for manslaughter is much lower than, well, rest of western civilization.

     

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    Rez (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    People should know better

    I live in Oklahoma where we have a whole season dedicated to tornado conditions and when people die we don't blame meteorologists, we blame ourselves for failing to pay attention. If you live in an area where the sky reaches down and rips entire homes apart while flinging semi-trucks across cities then you learn to have a plan and stick to it. The same goes (or should) for people in earthquake zones. Honestly beyond a basic warnings there isn't any help anybody can give you. It comes down to risk management: is the risk of death worth the potential temporary relocation costs.

     

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  14.  
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    The Buzz Saw (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    Makes perfect sense.

    People seem to think it's OK to turn your brain off when an "expert" speaks.

    This fits right in with the woman who sued the doggy door company because her son crawled through, fell into the pool, and drowned. Apparently, she failed basic geometry classes (or common sense in general) in failing to realize that objects can fit through holes larger than said objects. There was no "expert" to tell her that perhaps children can fit through large doggy doors!

    Seriously, what has become of society? If this were a story about scientists being bribed to lie about the results, that'd be one thing. However, suing them because they happened to be wrong? Do people honestly believe that the knowledge scientists possess is magical and completely faultless?

     

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    AudibleNod (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Can we sue

    Along those lines, we could try a judge and jury if an acquitted person subsequently commits another crime, possibly for conspiracy of the crime. Politicians too would be vulnerable to criminal charges for failing to make good on their often conflicting promises. We could charge driving instructors if their students break any laws.

     

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    AudibleNod (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    Brain Drain

    This could lead to a brain drain of sort for Italy. Much like malpractice suites (and insurance) can drive certain types of doctors from particular states; the criminalization of prediction and scientific analysis may lead seismologists and volcanologists to leaving Europe's only country with active volcanoes.

     

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  17.  
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    Brian Schroth (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 1:59pm

    Great!

    Now the next time a scientist is asked to weigh in on the risks of something in Italy, he will exaggerate the threat to an absurd degree to shield himself from liability. Brilliant!

     

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  18.  
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    FuzzyDuck, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:02pm

    What this leads to

    What this leads to is overcautious predictions. Here's one for Italians:

    It's very likely there will be a strong Earthquake somewhere between tomorrow and 2031. As a precautionary measure we recommend that you sleep in tents as far away as possible from buildings or trees.

    Better safe than sorry.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:05pm

     

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  20.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Can we sue

    We know. We know. It could have been worst. Let us know when you and your fellow Keynesians decide to look at empirical evidence and try out scientific rigor again.

    In the meantime, I would like to sell you a pen which protects from terrorist attacks. Ever since I have owned it, I have not been the victim of a single terrorist attack. Since you're such a smart man, I won't try to cheat you. You can have the pen for no more than $500,000.

     

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  21.  
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    btr1701 (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Predictions

    > Now the next time a scientist is asked to
    > weigh in on the risks of something in Italy,
    > he will exaggerate the threat to an absurd degree

    Or not weigh in at all. That's how the scientific community should respond to this. They should say, "You want to put us in prison for making a bad prediction? Fine. We won't make any predictions any more at all. You guys are on your own. Figure it out for yourselves from now on and good luck with that."

     

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  22.  
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    Insider, May 26th, 2011 @ 2:35pm

    Maybe this sets a precedent then to take presidents and politicians to court for not avoiding unemployment and recessions????

     

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  23.  
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    Oblate (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 2:48pm

    I love this!

    After hearing people from other countries complain how litigious and uneducated Americans are, hearing stories like this is a gift. Thank you, lawyer-happy Darwin Award also-rans from Italy! Thank you, Italian politician following the proud tradition of the Vajont Dam disaster and letting politics overrule common sense! Now, when people criticize Americans for being dumb and for filing ridiculous lawsuits, we can point to this story and say it's not just us.

     

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  24.  
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    Meee, May 26th, 2011 @ 3:33pm

    This is the result by not placing small text on everything for the liability. I was about to sue god for not promising to end the world on May 21.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 3:57pm

    The judge should be suspended from the bench and forced to submit to a psychiatric evaluation or face permanent removal. This is insanity on such a level that it's truly difficult to employ any other adjective.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 4:10pm

    Obviously the UN should get all nations involved to declare war on mother nature!

     

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  27.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 26th, 2011 @ 5:35pm

    Science = Witchcraft

    Next: “Burn the witches!”

     

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  28.  
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    DogBreath, May 26th, 2011 @ 6:04pm

    Re: Science = Witchcraft

    Lets not go off the deep end now. We must be fair and perform a proper test to determine if the Italian seismologists are witches.

    I think this will do:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzMhU_4m-g

     

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  29.  
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    Bnesaladur (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 6:33pm

    Another reason I think legislation that can lead to a lawsuit needs to be more carefully written to restrict the vast majority of them. Perhaps in the experience and education of the seismologists the evidence pointed to the unlikelihood of a major earthquake event but that does not guarantee there will not be an earthquake. People do not think for themselves much anymore.

     

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  30.  
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    abc gum, May 26th, 2011 @ 7:12pm

    Re:

    As more weather related programs are defunded the predictions will, by default, become less accurate.

    Who ya gonna sue - congress cridders

     

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  31.  
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    abc gum, May 26th, 2011 @ 7:16pm

    Re:

    transportation engineer - lol

     

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  32.  
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    Daemon_ZOGG (profile), May 26th, 2011 @ 8:58pm

    "Seismologists Tried For Manslaughter Due To Earthquake"

    Italian citizens, I have respect for. It's the Italian government/Judicial system I have a problem with. Remember, these are the same rediculous fools who wanted to put the Google Execs in jail for the actions of some outsider dumbass who posted a rather tasteless video he shouldn't have. I think the Pope should be held responsible for un-answered prayers. Perhaps, Wine company CEOs should be jailed for not predicting a good grape season. Aside from observation, science is for the most part.. best guess. These non-scientists/geeks need to chillout and use a lot more common-sense. ;)

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 9:37pm

    Re: Re: Science = Witchcraft

    Wow, what a brilliant test!!!

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 26th, 2011 @ 9:41pm

    Re: What this leads to

    Here is the USGS statement on earthquakes in California.

    They give "updated probabilities for earthquakes of magnitude 6.7 or greater in the next 30 years".

    More fun is this page on predicting "100% Chance of an Earthquake"...

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 27th, 2011 @ 2:17am

    The story is rather different ...

    As usual, looking a bit more in depth would help.

    From memory, I recall at least one scientist had predicted the earthquake to be not too distant in the future and went public with it after being repeatedly dismissed by the authorities, which stuck to the concept that earthquakes cannot be predicted.

    Following the clamour, the government attacked the scientist on all media and discredited him, convincing the masses that there was nothing to fear. I believe the two scientists named above were at the forefront of the campaign. However, it was later exposed that part of the government knew the earthquake was going to happen and geared up to use Protezione Civile to provide aid and reconstruction help (at a price, of course...). No need to name names, we know who controls the Italian media.

    Of course there's no easy way to take these people to court, hence (I think) a trial to trace the responsibilities.

    For a more detailed description of the events, look for Draquila (in Italian only, AFAIK), a documentary that exposes how businesses and politicians exploited the death of many people.

     

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  36.  
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    martyburns (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 4:24am

    Re: This is what the world is coming to

    Since it is their fault

    LOL :-)

     

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  37.  
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    Thomas Jones (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 4:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Can we sue

    I think Jimbaux was being sarcastic too, just less obviously... although it is difficult to tell true crazy from sarcasm

     

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  38.  
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    Thomas Jones (profile), May 27th, 2011 @ 5:04am

    Re: I love this!

    Yes there are morons everywhere, but American culture and attitudes produces an extra loud and visible kind. That's why Americans have the reputation they do.

     

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  39.  
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    Qûr Tharkasdóttir, May 27th, 2011 @ 5:04am

    I was going to post that everyone, original poster and comments alike, had the story completely upside down, but Anonymous post 35 did it before me. It's unfortunate that people, even on a decent site like this one, can't do a proper job of figuring out what they're talking about. For starters, the earthquake took place in L'Aquila two years ago, and if you're stuck in Anglospeak, I'm sure the British press, loving to hate Italian politicians as it does, has plenty more details.

    Also plenty of details to tell you (@Daemon_ZOGG) that your assimilation (Italian government/Judicial system) is a non sequitur.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, May 28th, 2011 @ 5:51am

    Re: Science = Witchcraft

    At 2:00, Eric bites his blade. Why? To keep from laughing.

    ... what, doesn’t anybody else listen to DVD commentaries?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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