Tags: Comptroller | suit | 75 million | Eric Garner

Comptroller Tries to Settle $75M Claim in Chokehold Case

Image: Comptroller Tries to Settle $75M Claim in Chokehold Case
NYC Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 04:20 PM

New York comptroller Scott Stringer is trying to use a novel strategy to settle a $75 million civil rights claim brought by the family of police chokehold victim Eric Garner
before the lawsuit is even formally filed.

The New York Times reports Stringer is trying to privately work out a deal aimed at avoiding a trial in federal court, and to help bring "closure" to the Garner family.
If it works, the strategy would preclude involvement of the city's Law Department.

Stringer told the Times he "can't guarantee what's going to happen" in the $75 million claim by Garner's family, adding: "We will attempt to bring a settlement to the Garner case if we're able."

The move is a big one for an office primarily known for watching out for the city’s finances and investments and paying off minor claims, the Times reports.

The Garner case is particularly high-profile, with regular protests in the city and around the country of a grand jury's decision not to charge the white police officer who used the fatal chokehold on Garner on July 17 as he peddled loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street.

Federal authorities are investigating as well.

Lawsuits like those expected by the Garner family are usually left to the Law Department, but the Times reports that Stringer wants to get involved much earlier in the process rather than at the end, when a payout is to be made.

So far this year, the elected Democratic official has reached two settlements without the Law Department, the Times reported: a $6.4 million settlement with a man wrongfully convicted of murder and jailed for 23 years, and $2.25 million to a homeless veteran's family after he died in a hot cell at Rikers Island jail.

"We came here not to kick the can down the road, not to sit back and let the Law Department litigate and I'll sign what's ever put in front of me," Stringer told the Times.

"We have an opportunity to make the system better, so why not do it?"

"Not all cases should be litigated," he added. "At some point you have to look at the process holistically, and you also have an opportunity to bring closure and security to those who have been wronged."

The city spent $732 million in settlements and judgments in the fiscal year ending in June, an increase of $208 million from the prior year, Stringer's office said.

Stringer told the Times that if his office can lower the cost of settlements and judgments and lessen "the impact of years of litigation on the city and these families, we'll be able to channel money into public housing and education."

"The comptroller has the authority to settle claims against the city before a lawsuit is filed," Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci told the Times. "We trust that he will exercise that authority wisely. As always, the Law Department is available to consult with the comptroller in connection with any settlement of this matter," referring to the Garner family's claim.

The family's attorney, Jonathan Moore, told the Times he was open to "sit down and talk about trying to resolve the Garner case; I would be remiss in not accepting that invitation."

But Moore, who won a settlement with the city for $41 million for the five men whose convictions were overturned in the notorious 1989 Central Park jogger case, warned:

"Any resolution of this matter must take into account the important public policy issues at stake, like police training and reinstituting the ban against chokeholds."

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New York comptroller Scott Stringer is trying to use a novel strategy to settle a $75 million civil rights claim brought by the family of police chokehold victim Eric Garner before the lawsuit is even formally filed.
Comptroller, suit, 75 million, Eric Garner
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2014-20-16
Tuesday, 16 Dec 2014 04:20 PM
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