Comptroller’s Office enters into partnerships with DEP, DCAS, DOT, and DSNY

(New York, NY) – The number of claims filed against New York City dropped from 33,531 in Fiscal Year 2015 to 32,640 in Fiscal Year 2016, buoyed by progress at the NYPD, which saw 861 fewer claims than in the previous year, according to two reports released today by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. The reports, “ClaimStat 2.0” and the Comptroller’s Annual Claims Report, highlight strategies the Comptroller’s Office has implemented to reduce claims and limit the cost of settlements, which reached over $1 billion last year.

Launched in 2014 by Comptroller Stringer, ClaimStat is a data-driven initiative that identifies practices or policies that generate costly or preventable lawsuits against the City. By addressing these claims hotspots, City agencies can act to save the City money and provide better, safer services for New Yorkers.

“There will always be claims against New York City. The question is how we use data to be smarter in our approach.  Every agency should be working to reduce claims, and we believe a numbers-driven approach can help,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer said. “Over the last two years, the police department has made great strides — and I thank the men and women of the NYPD for all of their hard work.”

In 2014, shortly after the launch of ClaimStat, the Comptroller’s Office entered into a real-time data sharing agreement with the NYPD. Since then, tort claims against the department have fallen 20.3% — upending an eight-year trend of rising claims filed against the NYPD. This year, that progress has filtered down to the precinct level. In 2016, 65% of precincts saw fewer personal injury claims per 100 crime complaints than in the previous year. The department’s progress can be attributed to new policies, procedures, and training — in addition to the NYPD’s utilization of Comptroller-provided data.

For example, the 44th Precinct in the South Bronx — which in 2015 led the City with 17.04 police action claims per 100 crime complaints — reported only 8.7 claims per 100 crime complaints this year, a drop of nearly 50%. Despite these successes, some precincts — especially those concentrated in the South Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and Central Brooklyn — still show a high rate of police action claims, even after adjusting for crime rates.

The Comptroller’s Office has entered into similar data-sharing agreements over the last two years with four additional agencies: the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Sanitation. These partnerships will allow the agencies and the Comptroller’s Office to share critical information, and work together to reduce claims and settlement costs in the short-term and the long-run.

Released today, the Comptroller’s Annual Claims Report for Fiscal Year 2016 highlights the drop in claims filed in Fiscal Year 2016. In FY 2016, 26,800 personal injury and property damage claims — known as tort claims — were filed, representing a decline of 2% from FY 2015.  Yet, tort claim settlements and judgments resulted in payouts totaling $629.5 million — nearly a 7% jump from FY 2015 payouts.  This marks the fourth consecutive year of rising settlement and judgment costs.  In FY 2016, the number of non-tort claims filed — such as contract disputes, equitable claims, and refund claims — decreased to 5,840, a 5% drop from FY 2015.  Non-tort claim settlements and judgments rose to $380.9 million, a 3% increase from FY 2015. The Comptroller’s Office also continued its strategy of settling meritorious high-exposure claims before costly court cases. Pre-litigation settlements in FY 2016 included wrongful conviction claims by Roger Logan ($3.8 million) and Shabaka Shakur ($3.6 million), and claims by the Estate of Eric Garner ($5.9 million).

“That the number of claims is declining is encouraging, and although it may take several years to realize, the reduction in current claims filed should reduce costs down the road. Right now, we are settling old cases that are driving up current payouts, which is one factor increasing the overall cost,” Comptroller Stringer said. “The work we’re doing will ultimately save taxpayer dollars in the long-term, and we’re going to continue to collaborate with agencies to equip them with the tools they need to address these challenges. These new partnerships will build on that model, and help us continue to rein in claims and settlement costs.”

Additional data in ClaimStat 2.0

NYPD Claims Dropped for the Second Year

  • The number of claims filed against the NYPD dropped by 10% in Fiscal Year 2016, falling from 8,423 to 7,562.
  • Since 2014, the number of claims filed against the department has decreased by 20.3% — effectively bucking an eight-year trend.
  • In 2016, 65% of precincts saw fewer personal injury claims per 100 crime complaints. Despite these successes, some precincts still show a high rate of police action claims, even after adjusting for crime rates.

Additional Data in FY 2016 Annual Claims Report

Decline in Settlements and Judgments for Claims that Occurred Before 2007

Settling claims that were filed before 2007 cost the City $40.7 million in FY 2016, down from $60.6 million paid out for older legacy claims in FY 2015. The City also settled a number of historical claims against the NYPD. These high-exposure claims, in many of which the underlying crime or action occurred more than a decade ago, caused a spike in the NYPD’s settlement outlays. Roughly one-third of the total cost of NYPD settlements – more than $85 million – came from these claims, including:

  • Actions filed by the families of murder victims from the 1980s and 1990s, alleging involvement of the “Mafia Cops.” These cases settled for $13.5 million;
  • Five wrongful conviction claims from the 1995 “Soundview Murders,” which settled for a combined total of $40 million;
  • Alan Newtown’s $12.1 million wrongful conviction settlement involving a rape and assault that occurred in 1984; and
  • Attorneys’ fees for the “Stop and Frisk” litigation (Floyd v. City of New York), which totaled $11.3 million.

Pre-litigation Settlements Helped Avoid Costly Litigation and Trials

  • In FY 2016, the Comptroller’s Office continued its strategy of settling high-exposure claims before litigation starts to avoid the risks of high verdicts and judgments. This conserves the City’s legal resources, saves taxpayers money, and provides quicker resolution for claimants.
  • Two wrongful incarceration cases were settled in FY 2016, awarding Roger Logan and Shabaka Shakur $3.8 million and $3.6 million, respectively.
  • The Comptroller’s Office also reached a pre-litigation settlement with the Estate of Eric Garner for $5.9 million. 

Sidewalk Claims Filed and Payouts Drop 

  • In FY 2016, sidewalk claims filed decreased to 2,378, down from 2,559 claims in FY 2015. Sidewalk claims paid out in FY 2016 fell to $31.8 million, a 20% drop from FY 2015.

Department of Correction Claims continued to surge

  • In Fiscal Year 2016, the number of claims filed against DOC jumped 25%, surging from 3,462 to 4,321.
  • The DOC has faced a steady increase in claims since 2013. In just three years, the number of claims filed has jumped 97%. 

Health + Hospital Claims dropped, but malpractice claims rose

  • There were 885 claims filed against NYC Health + Hospitals in FY2016, down from 905 the year before.
  • While the overall number of claims decreased, the number of medical malpractice claims filed against acute care hospitals increased by 6%.

Claim Trends by Borough

  • In a borough-by-borough breakdown of tort claims filed in FY 2016, the Bronx had the most claims filed with 7,546 and Staten Island had the fewest tort claims filed with 1,224.
  • In FY 2016, the Bronx had 6,351 personal injury claims filed, the most of any borough; Queens had 2,114 property damage claims filed, the most of any borough. The total number of tort claims filed by borough in FY 2016 were:
  • The Bronx with 6,351 personal injury claims filed and 1,195 property damage claims filed.
  • Brooklyn with 4,726 personal injury claims filed and 1,946 property damage claims filed.
  • Manhattan with 3,568 personal injury claims filed and 1,476 property damage claims filed.
  • Queens with 2,514 personal injury claims filed and 2,114 property damage claims filed.
  • Staten Island with 608 personal injury claims filed and 616 property damage claims filed.

To read the full “ClaimStat 2.0” report, click here.

To read the full Annual Claims report, click here.