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New York City shelled over $213 million in legal settlements in just four months

By Samuel Lee
|
February 26, 2024

New York City paid a record $213 million in legal settlements in four months.

In a startling revelation, New York City has expended a whopping $213 million on legal settlements and judgments from July through October. This marks a 200% increase from the previous fiscal year during the same timeframe. As a result, this payout surge sets a new record for the city. Furthermore, this challenges its financial management, and sparks concerns over its litigation strategies, the New York Post reports.

Significant cases contribute to record payouts

Ken Girardin from the Empire Center for Public Policy commented on the city's approach to legal challenges. He likened it to an easy target for lawsuits due to its propensity to settle claims readily. Girardin said:

Regarding lawsuits, the New York City government is a big shirtless guy in a cloud of mosquitoes.

Among the notable settlements was a massive $167 million payout in a federal class-action lawsuit by former Rikers inmates. Furthermore, this highlights issues within the city's detention system.

The lawsuit centered on the city's failure to release detainees within the legally required three hours after bail was posted.   Some inmates remain incarcerated for up to a day due to technical and staffing issues.

Debra Greenberger, representing the former inmates, expressed hope that the city would reform its practices to avoid future lawsuits.

Greenberger said:

I hope the city looks at the money they spent and they reform their practices rather than face similar lawsuits.

Another significant payout involved Carlton Roman, who received $18 million after being wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for over 30 years. This case underscores the profound impact of prosecutorial errors and the lasting consequences on individuals' lives.

James Henning, Roman's attorney, criticized the prosecutorial system's lack of accountability, suggesting that such errors would continue to burden taxpayers until reforms are implemented.

Henning said:

Taxpayers will continue to fund payouts like his client’s until prosecutors have some type of incentive to not conceal evidence and maliciously prosecute people.

Civil suits and their impact on the city

The city also settled with Anne Monoky, a Manhattan mom and fashion director, for over $3.1 million after a tree fell on her and her children in Central Park, causing severe injuries. This case, among others, reflects the diverse nature of civil suits the city faces, ranging from personal injury to wrongful conviction.

The report also highlighted a $2.35 million settlement to FDNY Lt. Brendan Connolly, who was injured due to a sinkhole, pointing to infrastructure issues contributing to the city's legal liabilities.

A Law Department spokesman attributed the rise in settlements partly to the courts clearing a backlog of cases that accumulated during the pandemic. Moreover, the city's recent trend of reversing wrongful criminal convictions has also led to significant settlements.

The city's stance on legal settlements

The Law Department maintains that settlements are often in the city's best interest, avoiding prolonged and potentially more costly litigation.

This pragmatic approach to legal disputes, however, does not mitigate the concern over the escalating costs to taxpayers.

The report's total does not include a pending $13 million settlement with Black Lives Matter protesters, further indicating the financial implications of the city's legal challenges.

Conclusion

  • New York City's record $213 million in legal settlements over four months marks a 200% increase from the previous year.
  • Significant cases include a $167 million settlement for former Rikers inmates and an $18 million payout for a wrongfully convicted individual.
  • The surge in payouts is attributed to clearing backlogs from the pandemic and revisiting wrongful convictions.
  • Legal settlements are seen as a pragmatic approach to avoid prolonged litigation, but raise concerns about financial management and accountability.