Law: Suicide Payoff

A subway jump nets $650,000

It was the kind of case whose outcome seemed to justify Mr. Bumble's judgment that "the law is a ass." A man who jumped in front of a subway train in an attempt to kill himself sued the local transit authority—and won a $650,000 settlement. Only in New York, a smug outlander might be tempted to say. In theory, though, it could have occurred in most states, a dumbfounding example of how a needed legal reform can be pushed to the edge of irrationality.

In 1977, Milo Stephens Jr., a...

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