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?

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Comments on “Seismologists Tried For Manslaughter Due To Earthquake”

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John Doe says:

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.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

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.

AudibleNod (profile) says:

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.

Rez (profile) says:

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.

The Buzz Saw (profile) says:

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?

btr1701 (profile) says:

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.”

FuzzyDuck says:

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.

Oblate (profile) says:

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.

Bnesaladur (profile) says:

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.

Daemon_ZOGG (profile) says:

"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. 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Q?r Tharkasd?ttir (profile) says:

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.

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