How Much Does Superhero Destruction Actually Cost? An Insurance Lawyer Reviews

Insurance lawyer and superhero enthusiast Stacey Giulianti reviews and assesses superhero destruction in movies and television, including ‘Man of Steel,’ ‘The Batman,’ ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’ ‘Venom,’ ‘The Boys’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’

Insurance Cases in Superhero Movies & TV

This drink, I like it. – I know. It’s great, right? – Another. Acts of God are what we call natural phenomenon, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and not acts of a God, like someone like Thor. My name is Stacey Giulianti. I’m an insurance attorney. I’ve been in the insurance field for 30 years. Today, we’ll be looking at insurance cases in both superhero movies and television shows. This scene is from “Man of Steel.”

Man of Steel

It gives me, like, anxiety as an insurance lawyer and as a claims adjuster looking at this type of damage. Absolutely, within enough time, adjusters will go out and they will calculate the exact amount of damage for this, even if it’s city-wide. There’s certainly structural problems once Zod and Superman go smashing through it. You’re gonna have to take that building down.

That’s actually a lot easier of a calculation because of what we have the Valued Policy Law, and what it says is that if a property is damaged, we don’t fight over how much it’s gonna cost to repair. The insurance company pays out the amount listed on the policy, end of story. In addition, each individual floor or business would have their own business owner’s policy, with all of the items covered in their offices. They would take a look at the face value that’s on their business owner policy for property, and the insurance companies would write that check at a cost of at least 20 million per floor of the skyscraper.

Not only is it the damage to the buildings, but to all the businesses that won’t be able to operate, all of the living expenses people will need to be paid, all of the trucks and vehicles and cars that are damaged, roads that will need to be replaced. Not all of that is covered by insurance, but for that part that is, it’s going to be hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars. I don’t see an individual responsible here that you could hold liable. You certainly aren’t gonna hold the alien General Zod. We have Superman fighting for his very life. There is almost no liability in the court for property damage when you are defending your own life.

Call me crazy, but I think if someone’s trying to terraform your planet, you got a right to kick their butt. If this is an act of terrorism, then it would typically be covered by the insurance companies and it’s called the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. Now, prior to 9/11, insurance policies didn’t exclude terrorism. They require insurance companies to ensure terrorist acts but after a certain limit, the federal government will put its money, up to a certain limit, to pay for damages caused from terrorist acts. Now, terrorist acts must be certified by the federal government as an act of terrorism.

You can’t go to court and say, “Well, this was an act of terrorism.” One of the big exclusions in virtually all insurance policies is what we we call acts of war. If someone is trying to take over your country, you could argue that that’s an act of war and property insurance is excluded. It’s not covered. The reason acts of wars are excluded is because it’s so much damage. It’s too much for us to handle. General Zod is trying to terraform the earth. To me, that’s an act of war, and there won’t be any money coming from the insurance companies. This clip is from “The Batman.”

The Batman

The Penguin, not negligently, but intentionally, caused an accident in order to throw his pursuers off of his trail. In terms of property damage, you have the value of the tractor trailer, which appeared to be carrying fuel, at least three or four other trucks, along with private vehicles damaged, each one would have been a total loss, no doubt in my mind. So you’re talking well over a million dollars in damage. We see Batman going around the vehicles, and, honestly, doing his best not to impact any other cars. I do see, however, an issue with Batman towards the end. That’s not an act of negligence. That’s an act of recklessness and recklessness is something that the Batman would actually be liable for. This might be controversial, but I’m gonna say it. Batman is a cop. Batman is called in by the bat signal in order to catch a fugitive or to stop a crime or solve a crime. That is something the government does. If you’re acting on behalf of the state, you can’t do what the government can’t do. You can’t search somebody without a warrant. You can’t shake them until they give you a confession in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, just because you’re a private person. On the one hand, he has qualified immunity. He’s protected from regular negligence. If he causes some damage and he’s not being reckless, he is protected the same way as a regular police officer would be. But if he goes out of his way to be reckless when he smashes The Penguin’s car, he would be liable for that, because no one, including the police, would be protected from a reckless act like that.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

This scene is from “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” – Told you it was working. -Go, go, go. – What’s up guys? Forget your pin number?  – Four whole- – Now you gotta be careful in terms of the legal issues here. He’s not trying to save life, he’s trying to save property, and that’s a big legal distinction that we make. The Good Samaritan rule says if you’re going to save somebody, especially someone’s life, and you cause damage, say you’re rescuing someone from drowning and you break their arm, you’re not liable for breaking their arm because you saved their life. He’s not saving any lives.

He’s merely trying to protect property. By getting involved and not letting them take the money and leaving, he causes additional damage to that bank area as well as to the building that it’s in and the deli. Once an insurance company pays out for damages in order to repair these buildings, they’ll do what’s called subrogation. They subrogate or they collect against those that are responsible. Now, he didn’t cause the damage to the ATM, pulling it out of the wall, but when he starts throwing them around in order to stop them as opposed to just webbing them up, that type of damage he would be liable for. Meaning but for his actions, there would have been less damage. ATMs are about $10,000.

The glass and the poster, the window and the metal framing, probably another 15 or $20,000. There was probably ceiling damage, if we looked at it a little bit more intently, that you’re probably talking about $50,000 in damage to redo the facade on the bank side. You then on the deli side and on that commercial property, you’ve got this laser-type object going right through the wall. You’re probably talking about total of about $300,000 in damage.

Now, more interesting is the deli and the building across the street. The deli would have what’s called the BOP, the business owner’s policy. Part of that coverage, which you can also purchase, is called business interruption coverage, any of the losses that you sustained from not being in business. If that store was making $20,000 a month, the insurance company would pay them $20,000 a month until they were back on their feet. And so then the question arises is, is he liable for his actions? And the answer generally in the law is yes. So in this case, Spider-Man would be held, by virtually all courts, liable for any damage or additional damage that he caused.


This scene is from “Venom.” So many snacks, so little time. – Let’s start by looking at the damages. Venom jumps on and destroys probably four vehicles [cash register chiming] and then smashes the facade of a building and then goes through a column stone fence into the water as he escapes. Probably looking at no more than 150 or $200,000 worth of damage. But what’s interesting is that automobiles have various coverages, and if you don’t have the right coverage, your vehicle will not be covered for the damage.

Most people only have what’s called property damage coverage. It doesn’t cover your car, it covers the car that you hit. So if you only have property damage coverage, and you get into some kind of accident or damage, your vehicle doesn’t get get paid for by the insurance company. The other two policies are called comprehensive and collision. Collision is when a vehicle hits another vehicle or a stationary object

. The insurance company will pay at that time for the damage to the vehicle. Comprehensive is everything else. A fire, a tree falling on top it, even an animal striking the vehicle. And in this case, Venom, almost like an animal, an alien symbiote, smashes into your vehicle. So for those people, if they don’t have what’s called comprehensive insurance, the insurance company will not be writing a check to those people. [Venom gurgling] – What the hell are you? – I am Venom. Think of yourself as my ride. – He’s an equal part to Eddie living inside him. Eddie didn’t actually cause any of the damage himself. Venom caused the damage, which raises an interesting liability issue because if someone is carjacked and forced to be the getaway driver for a bank robbery, they’re not responsible. They did it under what we call duress.

Duress is a legal term where you’re forced to do something often under the threat of violence or you could get hurt. – Cooperate and you might just survive. – That’s duress if I’ve ever heard it. So to hold Eddie responsible for this seems very unlikely. No insurance company is gonna say that you have liability. Now, we’re not talking about mental illness, multiple personality disorder. Courts have often found that that’s not an excuse because it’s still the same person, even if you claim to have multiple people living in you. But in this case, Eddie really does have someone else living in him. And you would say, “Well, we’ve never really had that situation.” And the fact is, we did have that situation.

Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins, would often go out to a bar, and Chang, one half of the conjoined twins, would drink too much and get into a bar fight. He knocked a guy out cold, committed a battery, and he was arrested. So Chang and Eng were brought before the judge, and the judge had to make a decision. Did he jail Chang, who committed a battery, but also the conjoined twin Eng, who didn’t do anything wrong, or did he let them both go? And the judge in that decision said, “I can’t put an innocent man in jail for this type of crime.” And he let them both go. This scene is from “The Boys.”

The Boys

When you ever besmirch Billy- Superheroes, absolutely, if they exist, are gonna make mistakes. How does the law hold these superheroes accountable or not accountable for their actions? In some instances, you would think that the law would say, “They’re helping. They’re doing more good than bad, and they therefore we’re not gonna hold them liable.” And we have that in some instances, right? Qualified immunity protects police officers, or in this case superheroes, if they’re acting in the course and scope of their duties.

It’s qualified by certain rules. – I was chasing these bank robbers. – If you’re going to save money that was stolen from a bank and you’re going to cause additional destruction and in this case death, qualified immunity most likely would not protect you. The attorneys for A-Train and for the corporation come to him and they wanna resolve the matter. – Now, you two weren’t married, and look, technically, there’s no legal claim, but Vought wants to do the right thing. – If I were representing Hughie, I would absolutely not sign that non-disclosure agreement.

The lawyer tells him that he doesn’t have a cause of action, and that’s true for wrongful death. However, there is a separate tort, and a tort is when someone is injured, called negligent infliction of emotional distress, and there’s an argument to be made by a good lawyer that he would have the right to collect for causing you great emotional and mental distress by their negligent acts. If he was to file a lawsuit, he would be entitled to what’s called discovery, where you get documents and deposition testimony from people at the company and the superheroes in order to get evidence for your liability case.

That may be where he can dig up more dirty laundry. He could take that information and put it out to the world. – Robin. Robin! – If you’re looking at the emotional distress, you could calculate it as an amount per day that an average person would take in order for you to have this kind of pain in your life. I would ask the jury for $100 a day [cash register chiming] for every day for the rest of Hughie’s life, because he’s gonna have to remember that horrific scene of holding Robin’s hands and her blood all over him and the street. If you wanted to send a higher-level message, you would go after what we call punitive damages.

Punitive damages have nothing to do with compensating. It’s meant to punish the corporation for acts that they knew or should have known could have happened. However, insurance does not cover punitive damages. That has to come out of the corporation’s pocket, which is what makes it so painful for them. Let’s assume a company like this is bringing in $60 billion a year in revenue. It would be very easy to ask the jury for 1% of that, which would be $600 million. You could ask for 10% and go for $6 billion if you wanted to. No company wants to pay 1% or certainly not 10% of their income for one case. This scene is from “Avengers: Infinity War.”

Avengers: Infinity War

If half of humanity disappeared, it would almost be impossible to calculate the total amount of damage to all of those lives that disappeared, all of the productivity. So as far as I’m concerned, that amount of damage, incalculable. If someone disappears, life insurance has some very interesting rules that govern it. It would take seven years for you to petition a court in order to prove that somebody was dead, get that death certificate issued, and collect on the life insurance proceed. Now, if they pay you and then the people come back, and as we find out half the population comes back, the insurance companies would require you to pay that money back plus interest. It’s important to know that insurance companies don’t like files open.

They would try to settle the claims with you. Instead of paying you the full amount of the face value, say a hundred thousand on a life insurance policy, we’ll pay you a settlement amount, say 70,000. If you agree to that and you collect that money, you do not have to pay it back when they’re found alive because that’s a separate agreement and you get to keep that cash. This scene is from “Hawkeye.” – Get down.

There’s no doubt that the moving van has lost its value as a moving van and is therefore a total loss. What are you gonna do? Use that moving van now? You gonna move, what, dollhouse items back and forth? Of course not. However, here’s the problem. This van belongs to the bad guys. And if a vehicle is being used in any criminal activity like that by either the owner or a permitted driver, insurance will not cover it. Criminal activity is an exclusion in every policy.

If superheroes suddenly popped up, the insurance world would have to change dramatically. It would require the industry to take a look at all of their policies and start looking at new perils, lasers, aliens, super villains, all of those things that don’t exist now. We’d have to take a look at it, find out how to cover those, how to exclude those if necessary, and more importantly, how to charge for that risk. Insurance provides peace of mind and if the worst should happen, they’re there to provide the money to put you back in the place you were before that incident.

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