Skylab hasn't even landed yet, and already the lawsuits have started.
There is, for instance, the claim of "Baby Girl" of Rochester before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, requesting $50,000 in mental anguish payments.
And then there is the suit against NASA by Jeffrey Largent of Cleveland ("defendant caused an 85-ton space station, known as Skylab, to be launched, knowing said space station would disintegrate into numerous pieces . . .")
Largent requests information from NASA that will enable the residents of the Shaker Heights suburb to take steps "in the event of an emergency."
U.S. District Judge Thomas Lambros has already dismissed a similar informational suit in the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division "for lack of jurisdiction in the subject matter."
The Justice Department's Torts Division has assigned to team of three attorneys to handle cases. One of them says the government is expecting a few lawsuits - largely because of the low probability of injury from the falling spacecraft. NASA estimates the odds at 150 to 1 of injury to any human in the world, and 600 billion to 1 of any particular individual being hit.
"But if someone can prove," says Simon, "that an object is in fact part of Skylab and it did injure them, they have a case against NASA."
Meanwhile, several entrepreneurs are capitalizing on Skylab's plummet with bull's eye and Chicken Little T-shirts and yellow hard hats.
Included in the Skylab Survival Kit (call 800-528-6050) is an easily personalized form that consents to an out-of-court settlement with NASA. CAPTION: Picture, no caption, By Joel Richardson - The Washington Post