In Wake of Ivins Suicide, Government Faces Tens of Millions of Dollars in Negligence Lawsuits

Everyone (outside of the Administration) seems in agreement about one thing: the FBI did an appalling job in investigating the anthrax attack. Not only did they intentionally persecute and accuse the wrong man, they ignored what now appears an obvious suspect. The government has already paid millions in damages and tens of millions in wasted resources from the pursuit of Steven Hatfill. Now the question is whether it will pay millions more for its failure to properly hire and monitor employees. Bruce Ivins fits perfectly into a negligence case alleging failure to properly hire and monitor employees. One such case is already pending.

The details on Ivins’ suspicious conduct and incriminating connections has led many to wonder how the FBI could focus so quickly and exclusively on Hatfill. Just as it did with Richard Jewell, the FBI clearly worked to pressure Hatfill, even harassing his employers and leaking facts to the media. As with Jewell, it was so obsessed with Hatfill that it ignored other leaks. Yet, no one has been held accountable for yet another moronic and destructive investigation. Instead the public has again paid millions for the incompetence of FBI investigators.

Given that history, it is not surprising that we may have to pay more. Now that the incompetence of the FBI in the investigation has been established, the question becomes the incompetence of the government in its hiring and supervision of Ivins. With his instability and bizarre conduct, it is strange that he was allowed to continue in a position of such sensitivity with access to some of the most lethal substances on Earth.

Private employers routinely are sued for the failure to detect and remove dangerous or unstable employees. Even if they are not liable under respondeat superior, they are often found liable for direct negligence in the hiring and supervision of employees.

Ivins worked for 35 years at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., but never seemed to be the focus of review for his problems in his private life.

One 2003 lawsuit was filed by the family of Robert Stevens, the photo editor who died after anthrax was mailed to his company’s headquarters. They are seeking $50 million. The release of the information recently by the FBI and its conclusion that Ivins was the culprit is the ultimate data dump in litigation. Their lawsuit was just improved ten-fold by the defendant in the case.

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18 thoughts on “In Wake of Ivins Suicide, Government Faces Tens of Millions of Dollars in Negligence Lawsuits”

  1. I think the job application process probably drove Ivins crazy, so all government employees are crazy by their hire dates. There is nothing we can do about it but go to an old Holywood system. New government employees should be “discovered.”

  2. I always liked the quote from Clue (which has one of the best casts of any comedy):

    “Is the FBI really in the business of covering up multiple homicides?”
    “Why do you think it’s run by a man name Hoover?”

  3. Rafflaw,
    Though said with irony one of my father’s favorite statements was “I may not always be right, but I’m never wrong.” I think he was quoting J. Edgar.

  4. This whole Ivins matter smells fishy. If this guy was so crazy, why was he there for so many years? I think the FBI is trying to save face over their original mistake. And we know that FBI can’t be wrong,right?

  5. Gyges,
    Charitably, that may have been Dundar’s point. However, my point was that corporations pay much less than their fair share of taxes. At the same time they reap governmental benefits that far exceed the benefits garnered by the average taxpayer.

  6. Michael,

    I think the argument that Dundar is making is that corporations just pass the taxes they pay on to the consumer.


    You had to know this was coming, where did your 40% figure come from?

  7. What is appalling about this story is that whether or not Ivins is guilty (which I doubt) the investigation and follow-up was botched to the extent that real harm was caused by ineffective government action.

    “Corporations don’t pay tax, people pay tax.” Doesn’t it bother you that corporations don’t pay taxes because of the Conservatives you support and vote for? If corporations paid their fair share of taxes, at a rate that would be equivalent to the government benefits they receive, regular people wouldn’t have to pay very much tax.

  8. Mr Turley

    I assume that these criticisms are equally valid regardless of the actual guilt of Dr. Ivins?

  9. Dundar,

    Appreciate your argument, their are plenty of problems with our tax system but I can’t image anyone is proud of where our tax dollars have gone for the last 8 years…mainly for Corporate welfare.

    Even now our tax dollars are being used to run all this propaganda about Ivins.

  10. First, I don’t believe the FBI’s lone thraxman story. It simply does not hang together.

    What does seem clear is that either the govt. was completely negligent in retaining a man working with biological weapons with the profile they have just presented or this case is another “mistake” in the FBI’s investigation. Either way it doesn’t look good. I hope the families are successful in their lawsuits and I hope these lawsuits get all of us closer to the truth of the matter.

  11. Jonathan,

    Are you absolutely sure it was FBI investigators, or maybe were the investigators instructed by their supervisors to focus on specific leads? Just curious.

  12. whollie:

    40% of the cost of everthing you purchase is tax.

    Corporations don’t pay tax, people pay tax.

    Divide the total annual budget by the number of households in America, about 100 million, and you arrive at the number each household has to contribute in the form of higher prices to keep the American cradle to grave welfare state rolling.

  13. Please tell me the present crowd in the White House has opted out of Government health care, if it is so bad.

    It continues to amaze me how the theft based religious republicans continue to decry foul anytime tax dollars are used in a manner not suited to their war mongering, xenophobic, stingy, weired beliefs. And then they cry about how much they are being taxed. Bush’s tax rate figured at 20%. Give me a break.

  14. Rob, yup, I agree, the American health care system is the WORST SYSTEM IN THE WORLD………except for all the others.

  15. Strange how the right wing thinks that business can and will do a bang up job running the health care for the nation.

    Do you really think that the way the system is run now is good? Millions of people do not have health care.

    I sold my business last year, and would like to retire, but because my wife has a pre-existing condition we can not get health insurance. So we had to start another business, or work for someone else, JUST TO GET HEALTH INSURANCE.

    Insurance companies only want to insure people that are healthy. That is not the point of insurance.

  16. Strange then how Liberals think the Government can & will do a bang up job running healthcare for the Nation.

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