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New York City’s Tort Liability Soars

Led by a record 2,004 lawsuits against the police department, New York City’s tort liability for the year ending July 31 reportedly grew a whopping 28%.

A story in today’s New York World, “A Tort Time Bomb,” cites the recently released Mayor’s Management Report, which “indicates that the flood of cases brought against the New York City police — which have seen a 63 percent rise over the last decade — has not subsided.”

“In 2010,” The World story continues, “the NYPD became the city agency with the highest volume of tort claims . . . , surpassing the Department of Transportation and the Health and Hospitals Corporation, and accounting for $135.8 million of the city’s total expenditures for judgments and settlements, according to the New York City Comptroller.”

The story quotes Joel Berger, “a civil rights attorney for 45 years” who is critical of what he sees as overly zealous NYPD tactics.

“Whether it’s stop and frisk, marijuana arrests, trespassing — this stuff is completely out of control,” said Berger, disagreeing sharply with New York City Councilman Peter Vallone who argues that the city should aggressively defend itself against, rather than reflexively settle, such lawsuits.

Berger holds out Los Angeles and Chicago as models for settling and “learning from” lawsuits against their police departments, adding that it is “absolutely absurd to respond to an increase in lawsuits by simply hiring more lawyers and defending to the hilt.  That is such poor public policy.”

Well, someone needs to explain to stuck-in-the-60s Joel Berger that both Los Angeles and Chicago — and California and Illinois more broadly — are all but bankrupt, in no small part because they roll over for any shyster with a bogus slip-and-fall or police brutality claim. Councilman Vallone is the one reading the situation correctly. The city’s Law Department should beef up and fight every single nonsense lawsuit that parasitically targets taxpayers’ collective wallet. Doing so will signal the shysters that their racket is to be increasingly squeezed. And if punks, thugs and felons don’t like stop-and-frisk, let ‘em move to Jersey —surely Bruce Springsteen will take up their “cause.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Chief Ray Kelly, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, Councilman Vallone and every other NYC official with any sense of justice and loyalty to taxpayers should fiercely lobby the shysters’ enablers in Albany, led by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, for statewide liability reforms that’ll give the crumbling former Empire State a fighting chance to save itself from an insolvent future like that of lawsuit-loving California and Illinois.

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