Subscribe Subscribe   Find us on Twitter Follow POL on Twitter  



NYC lawsuit payouts: $560M in 2011

| No Comments

$560M, more than the budgets of many smaller cities, is a fairly shocking figure, since, at typical 33% to 40% personal-injury contingency rates, it means that it's a wealth transfer of about $30 per capita from every man, woman, and child in the 99% in New York City to the 1% who are trial lawyers. And the $560M figure doesn't include the litigation expenses of a 650-member Law Department (that's more than the number of lawyers in Dewey Leboeuf's New York office at its peak, though not all of those city lawyers are defending personal injury claims) or of non-legal workers whose jobs are interrupted responding to discovery.

But the focus of a NY Times story on the subject is the reporter's inconceivable shock that NYC defends itself in lawsuits instead of blindly writing multimillion $ checks. In particular, the story is critical of the city hiring a private investigator to double-check the claimed injuries of a plaintiff claiming (and eventually receiving) millions of dollars of damages from a tree accident: of course, surveillance of a personal injury plaintiff seeking a large sum for quality-of-life injuries is common, and can uncover fraudulent claims, though courts are inconsistent and relatively lackadaisical about punishing such fraudulent claims. But given how thoroughly wracked the status quo is with fraud, imagine how much a softer touch New York City taxpayers would be if it was known that they did not double-check for fraud? "If you build it, they will come," and that $560 million a year would quickly become $5.6 billion a year. The Times investigated "ten cases"; how were those picked? How many cases involving fraudulent claims that the City successfully beat back did the Times miss?

The Times does not question City taxpayers paying an unprecedented $350,000 to the estate of an elderly woman for what was, at most, a few seconds of pain and suffering (and was probably no pain and suffering at all, but we'll credit the jury's finding for the sympathetic grandmother against the deep pocket); it gives only lip service to the legitimate claim of the City's counsel, Michael Cardozo, that taxpayers are paying excessive amounts for injuries.

The Times story is part of a three-day series suggesting that the City should do more to prevent injuries from falling trees. Of course, creating excessive liability for damage caused by trees is a great way to incentivize a defendant into having fewer trees. Trial lawyers' proposed solutions sometimes involve pure social cost: this blogger argues for warning signs, though, of course, if every tree has a warning sign to avoid liability, citizens will simply ignore the millions of dollars spent on warning signs (and also ignore far more important warning signs). And trial lawyers will still argue that injured plaintiffs were inadequately warned, because, after all, the warnings didn't prevent the injury in hindsight.

Leave a comment

Once submitted, the comment will first be reviewed by our editors and is not guaranteed to be published. Point of Law editors reserve the right to edit, delete, move, or mark as spam any and all comments. They also have the right to block access to any one or group from commenting or from the entire blog. A comment which does not add to the conversation, runs of on an inappropriate tangent, or kills the conversation may be edited, moved, or deleted.

The views and opinions of those providing comments are those of the author of the comment alone, and even if allowed onto the site do not reflect the opinions of Point of Law bloggers or the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research or any employee thereof. Comments submitted to Point of Law are the sole responsibility of their authors, and the author will take full responsibility for the comment, including any asserted liability for defamation or any other cause of action, and neither the Manhattan Institute nor its insurance carriers will assume responsibility for the comment merely because the Institute has provided the forum for its posting.

Related Entries:



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.