Controller Scott Stringer eyes settlement to lawsuit against city in chokehold death of Eric Garner
City Controller Scott Stringer is seeking to settle a $75 million damage claim filed against the city in the chokehold death of Eric Garner — a move that could give Stringer a high-profile role in the case at the expense of Mayor de Blasio.
Stringer defended his involvement, saying an early deal could bring quick closure to an emotional case, and save the city money. But a former chief lawyer for the city accused him of “grandstanding.”
Until this year, negotations over claims for wrongful deaths and imprisonment have been handled by the city Law Department, which is overseen by the mayor’s office.
The controller simply reviewed any settlement reached by municipal lawyers.
But after taking office Jan. 1, Stringer has negotiated two big settlements a $6.4 million payout for David Ranta, who was wrongly imprisoned 23 years for murder, and a $2.3 million deal with the family of a man who died in a broiling cell on Riker’s Island.
The Garner case is more high-profile; it touched off a national debate about police force. Garner’s family has filed a notice of claim with Stringer’s office, but has not yet filed suit.
Stringer said his early role in the case, which was first reported by the New York Times, could save the city millions of dollars in legal and other costs.
Stringer has emerged as a political rival of de Blasio’s — but he denied he was trying upstage the mayor.
“If we can settle this without litigation for a cost reasonable to the city .. and bring closure… that’s something we will explore,” he said. “We work daily with the Law Department in settling claims against the city. They have a role to play post-litigation and they do their job very well.”
Critics conceded that Stringer has the right under the City Charter to negotiate such settlements, but they accused him of overreaching.