City Comptroller Scott Stringer today said he did not know if his office would be able to settle a civil suit by the family of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who died after an apparent chokehold from NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo—but Mr. Stringer said he was hopeful about the process.
The comptroller, whom the city charter invests with the power to negotiate and approve all out-of-court monetary settlements, said at an unrelated event in Brooklyn that his office was reviewing the $75 million wrongful death claim Mr. Garner’s family has lodged against the city. A grand jury in Staten Island controversially determined two weeks ago that there was insufficient evidence to indict Mr. Pantaleo of any crime, provoking waves of successively larger protests in the streets.
Mr. Stringer warned that he could not promise the case would stay out of court.
“We are at the very beginning of the process, and there is no guarantee that this will be settled in our office, it may very well go to the Law Department, we just don’t know what yet,” he said.
Mr. Stringer has so far pursued a policy of reaching an agreement with claimants rather than letting city lawyers fight it out in court, even if it means larger-than-usual settlements. The pol argued that such an approach ultimately saves the city money by avoiding a lengthy legal battle and provides resolution to the those suing the city.
“What we simply said was that we would make every effort to see if we can reach a settlement that is in the best interests of the city, and brings closure to the family,” he said. “I can’t tell you whether we’re going to be able to settle the claim or the Law Department litigates, it’s much too early in the process.”
Mr. Stringer declined to say whether settling the suit would constitute a tacit admission of wrongdoing by Mr. Pantaleo, noting the strong feelings on both sides of the issue, and wishing to preserve an appearance of neutrality in the negotiations.
“It’s a very serious matter. The city is very concerned over this issue. We have a lot of challenging issues relating to our police in our communities, and sometimes the less you say about a claim the better to protect the integrity of the process,” he said.