Apparently, you can fight City Hall.
Taxpayers shelled out a whopping $794.4 million in legal judgments and claims during the fiscal year ending June 30 – up 38% from the $575.9 million paid out during the previous 12 months, according to Mayor Adams’ management report released two weeks ago.
The Law Department said it’s unaware if the sum is a record high, but a review of previous management reports shows the latest tally exceeded any 12-month period since at least fiscal 1998.
City lawyers attribute the rise in payments in part to settling some costly liability cases in fiscal 2022. They also attribute it to the city’s district attorneys stepping up efforts to review more wrongful conviction cases and proving people innocent – a move that resulted in the city being slapped with more civil lawsuits and making more settlement payments.
“We live in the litigation capital of the world, and the breadth and scope of city operations is enormous,” said Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci. “The city is always working to drive these costs down, and settlements usually cost taxpayers significantly less than taking cases to trial.”
Some of the bigger payouts include $36 million to Alonzo Yanes, a former student at Beacon High School in Manhattan who was horribly scarred in a 2014 chemistry experiment gone awry. Yanes was initially awarded $60 million by jurors during a 2019 trial, but the payout was negotiated down to $36 million after an appeals court ruled the original award was too high, officials said.
Other payments include $34 million to Staten Island residents who say they came down with cancer from living close to city landfills; $13 million to Samuel Brownridge, a Queens man who served 25 years in prison for a 1994 execution-style shooting he didn’t commit; and $5.35 million to Bladimil Arroyo, who was freed from jail in 2019 after wrongfully spending 18 years behind bars.
The $794.4 million in spending on judgments and claims doesn’t even include another $355.7 million the city reluctantly forked over to satisfy a federal judge’s 2012 ruling that found a state-mandated certification exam was racially biased against blacks and Latinos.
Payments to satisfy plaintiffs in the 26-year-old “Gulino vs. Board of Education” class-action lawsuit are ultimately projected to cost taxpayers at least $1.3 billion.
The city saw a big rise in legal spending despite being hit with less ligation in the past year. In fiscal 2022, the city was slapped with 8,284 federal and state lawsuits compared to 9,103 during the previous 12 months, records show.