Verdicts & Settlements

New York comptroller settles claim in Eric Garner's death for $5.9M

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New York City has agreed to pay $5.9 million to settle a claim by the family of Eric Garner, who died after a police officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.

The agreement was announced on Monday, a few days before the July 17 anniversary of Garner’s death, report the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. The incident, caught on videotape, is being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department. The civil rights investigation was announced after grand jurors declined to indict the officer who placed Garner in a chokehold.

Garner’s words—“I can’t breathe”—have been adopted by those protesting police treatment of blacks.

Garner’s family had filed a notice of claim and said they would file a lawsuit if no agreement was reached by July 17, according to a lawyer for the family. The city comptroller’s office reached the agreement, part of a controversial strategy to reach settlements in major civil rights cases before suit is filed.

The approach by comptroller Scott Stringer, the Times says, “has come under criticism for sidelining experienced lawyers at the Law Department who might better gauge the city’s legal liability.”

Stringer defended his approach as appropriate. “The work of our general counsel and the lawyers involved in this case and others has proved the quality and seriousness of the way we have looked at these cases,” he told the Times.

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