Gotham Gazette Law Department Budget Hearing Focuses on De Blasio Administration Legal Defense by Samar Khurshid

Gotham Gazette
Gotham Gazette
Law Department Budget Hearing Focuses on De Blasio Administration Legal Defense
Samar Khurshid
03/14/2017

City Comptroller Scott Stringer has taken aim at the issue in two annual reports, the most recent released Feb. 10, that include a data-driven approach to reducing preventable lawsuits. For instance, Stringer’s report noted the five costliest personal injury claim categories that accounted for 78 percent of all personal injury settlements and judgments in fiscal year 2016: civil rights claims ($158.0 million), medical malpractice claims ($101.1 million), police action claims ($100.6 million), motor vehicle claims ($89.7 million), and sidewalk claims ($31.8 million).

In response to Kallos’ concerns, Carter noted that the department has a risk management unit that specifically advises the city on recurring themes in the types of claims made against employees and agencies. The department does not, however, create reports on that unit’s work with different agencies to mitigate risks.

“We’ve got his $720 million plan to pay out,” Kallos said. “How much can you and your unit reduce from our plan to payout from before?”

“I don’t believe that we can give a firm estimate on reduction,” Carter responded. “I think that it is fair to say that any time we provide feedback to agencies, in connection with these conditions, that it reduces the likelihood these conditions will recur, but I’m not in a position to quantify that with certainty.”

Carter also noted that “a handful” of large settlements from lawsuits spanning years can “distort” the judgements and claims budget, which has remained otherwise relatively level. For instance, per Stringer’s report, in fiscal year 2016 four settlements from old cases against the NYPD totalled $76.7 million or 27 percent of the $279.7 million payouts by the NYPD. The City paid out $629.5 million in total for claim settlements and judgments that year.

Issue: 
Good Government