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Too Much of a Good Thing: When Charitable Gifts Augment Victim Compensation

44 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2006  

Robert A. Katz

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law


This article examines certain tensions between charity law and tort law, and the interface of between charitable giving and public disaster relief programs that draw upon tort law concepts. It does so by exploring the conflict between: (a) the restrictions that charity law imposes on the use of charitable assets to assist injury victims; and (b) tort law's approach to compensating injury victims who received charitable gifts. Specifically, it examines tort law's application of the collateral source rule to charitable gifts that provide victims with more resources than needed to relieve their financial distress.

To illustrate this phenomenon, the article describes the interaction between money distributed to the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the money distributed to them by the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. The Fund's administrators decided to ignore any charitable gifts already already distributed to 911 victims when setting their awards from the Fund. This article criticizes this approach and instead contends that any charitable surplus - i.e., that part of the charitable gift not needed to relieve the financial distress of 911 victims - be directed to other related charitable purposes.

Keywords: disaster, September 11, compensation fund, victim, torts, tort law, charity law, private benefit, collateral source, victim compensation, 9/11

Suggested Citation

Katz, Robert A., Too Much of a Good Thing: When Charitable Gifts Augment Victim Compensation. DePaul Law Review, Vol. 53, 2003. Available at SSRN:

Robert A. Katz (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )

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