Who should pay to guard schoolchildren against Mother Nature?

Friday, May 9, 2014

California has earthquakes, Oklahoma has tornadoes. In either place, the odds are that you'll never be at ground zero when disaster strikes, or even directly affected by one. But if you are one of the unlucky few (statistically speaking, that is) to experience a powerful quake or tornado, there's a very strong chance the results will be devastating.

So, who should be responsible for protecting you? The question is being raised frequently these days in California and Oklahoma, and the answer depends largely on where you're spending your time. As a society, we've decided that homeowners should cover their own insurance costs, albeit with subsidies for some people in flood-prone areas. But it's not entirely clear yet who should pick up the tab for making sure people are safe in buildings they don't own.

As The Times noted Monday, a California appeals court has held that the owners of a building known to be seismically risky can be held liable for injuries suffered when a quake causes it to collapse. That's true even if the quake happens before the deadline local officials have set for making upgrades.

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