Some cases come up that are simply absurd to consider. Our legal system has had two hundred years of precedents to grow through, and as a result there are some very old, very upsetting laws that remain on
the books and result in terrible outrage and increased scrutiny from time to time. Such is the case of Rick and Pamela Squirrell, whose daughter was killed while participating in the Huffington Beach junior lifeguard program in 2010. During training exercises, 11-year-old Alyssa Squirrell was struck by a city lifeguard boat and killed instantly. The family filed a series of wrongful death lawsuits seeking damages from the city, and the city responded by citing an archaic and little-known law that limits payouts in such cases to the value of the vehicle that caused the damage. Thus, the Squirrell’s payout would be limited to approximately $26,000 for the death of their child, who had been participating in a city program when killed by a city vehicle.

Further, the judge who heard the initial case suspended the legal proceedings while she deliberated on the matter of the liability-limiting law, saying that the family’s arguments against the matter were “premature.”

The average funeral in California costs between a few hundred dollars for cremation and $5,000 for a full service. This doesn’t include legal fees for an attorney to make sure the city pays for its mistake,
income lost during the burial and grieving process, hospital fees, etc. How exactly is it “premature” to want to receive some manner of recompense in the wrongful death of a loved one who was killed by a city vehicle while participating in a city program? Regardless of what is decided in answer to that particular question, the next hearing in the case isn’t scheduled until late next month while the judge takes time to deliberate on whether the law limiting the city’s liability should remain valid in this case.