Michael Cardozo, the New York City Corporation Counsel was quoted on the City Room Page of the New York Times on September 23, 2011, as advocating changes to the civil laws to limit award to plaintiffs who have sued the city because he claims that plaintiffs are compensated “too generously for their claims that they bring against the city” and “the law requires that the city pay damages even when the plaintiff was primarily at fault for the accident.  He highlighted other provisions like the lack of a cap on awards for pain and suffering and an allowance of 9 percent interest on judgments.”

I responded:

Mr. Cardozo’s remarks on the City Room page on September 23, 2011, are unfair and unjust to any individual who has ever been injured as a result of any city employee’s negligence. He knows that every lawyer defending the city or a city agency in any tort action always pleads and tries to prove to the jury that the injured plaintiff was negligent or at least in part contributed to his/her own damages. Many times this is the sole defense. The jury then decides if the injured plaintiff is wholly or partially at fault along with deciding the negligence of the city employee or entity the plaintiff has sued. Furthermore, every plaintiff suing the city must comply with special rules and procedures that were enacted solely for the city’s benefit. The plaintiff has to file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the accrual of the claim and be deposed in a 50H hearing before commencing a lawsuit within a specified limited period that is shorter than the normal statute of limitations. These special rules often mean that people with justifiable claims against the city never get to litigate their claims because they did not file their claim or commence their lawsuit on time. In many cases the city is immune from liability because of its municipal status notwithstanding a justifiable claim against a city employee or agency. There are strict rules that apply. In addition, it should be noted that the City does not have to pay 9% interest on judgments like non-municipal defendants, as asserted by Mr. Cardozo, but only 3%. There is no legal or equitable justification for a cap on awards for pain and suffering to save the city money when the person injured has and will be enduring the consequences of an injury caused by the city’s negligence and the jury has evaluated that pain and suffering and determined the award to be fair and just. Also,the city always moves the trial court to reduce all awards it considers excessive and will appeal if the motion is unsuccessful at the trial level.