Mea culpa: More on doggie damages

Walter Olson at Overlawyered takes issue with my assertion that the family of the electrocuted dog would donate “most of” the money it sought to charity. Olson writes:

“I wonder how you reach the conclusion that the family ‘would donate most of the $750,000’ ($740,000 per the Globe) to animal charities. At the press conference, according to the Globe, attorney John G. Swomley — who was at pains to portray the suit as not a money grab — said the family plans on ‘keeping $200,000, plus enough to pay for four years of college for Kyle and his brother Alec, 10’. At, say, Boston College (currently $37,413 room and board, and who knows how high the figure’ll be by the time the boys are grown?) that amounts to roughly another $300,000 ($37K x four years x 2 boys), leaving $240,000 of the settlement. And assuming Swomley takes, say, 30% of the $740,000 = $220,000 for his fee, that would leave a grand total of $20,000 to go to the animal charities — assuming there aren’t expenses and that sort of thing to be charged against the remainder.

“You’re probably right that I should have expanded my three-sentence summary of the case at Overlawyered to delve further into these matters, since they afford valuable insight into how lawyers can manage the p.r. aspects of their cases.”

I suspect Olson and I are both off in the math. To cover college, the family most likely would set aside a sum in an annuity or similar investment. That sum would be less than the full cost of college but, given that one son is already 13, probably more than I had thought. What’s worse, my comment failed to factor in attorney’s fees. All tolled, Olson is correct that “most of” is probably wrong and the amount left for charity would most likely be significantly less.