Mom Of Teen Killed In Garage Collapse Speaks Out

Dawn Kellner Fights Against Proposed Punitive Damage Bill

Jan. 11, 2011

MILWAUKEE -- The mother of a 15-year-old boy killed when a concrete slab fell from the O'Donnell Park garage last summer is speaking out.

On Tuesday, Dawn Kellner took her special fight to the state Capitol.

She's fighting against a bill she's worried will limit justice for victims of negligence.

It's been seven months since concrete fell from the parking structure, killing Jared Kellner. His mother still can't talk about him without breaking down.

"I can tell you that I'll never get to watch my son grow up or graduate or drive a car. All of his friends are getting their licenses. He got to drive for three weeks before he passed away from this," Dawn Kellner said.

As hard as it is for Dawn Kellner, she went to Madison to stand with the survivors of victims of other potential negligence cases who are concerned a new state law will limit damages in lawsuits.

"I just think it's allowing other families to be helpless and vulnerable," Kellner said.

Supporters at a Capitol hearing insist the bill still provides compensatory damages for victims, while protecting businesses from the expense of frivolous suits and unpredictable punitive damages.

"The reality or even the threat of litigation poses significant costs on job creators, from stifling innovation and efficiency to its direct impact on the bottom line," Gov. Scott Walker's legal chief counsel Brian Hagedorn said.

But Kellner, who also attended the hearing to speak out against the bill, said she's unconvinced.
"It would make it easier for people to have less accountability, as far as businesses, and that people like Jared could lose their lives, and there's no accountability for that," Kellner said.

Kellner has filed a notice of injury against the city and county of Milwaukee, but she has not yet filed suit against the contractors who built O'Donnell Park.

Critics also said the bill would make it harder for victims of negligence in nursing homes to seek compensation. It must still be voted on by the Assembly and Senate.

You can hear Kellner's testimony by clicking here. It is seven hours and 20 minutes into the hearing.

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