It’s not about the money

No, really. This time, it might not be.

In January 2006, retired New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum was mugged in Washington, D.C.; the muggers hit him over the head with a pipe. When his body was discovered and emergency workers responded, they somehow missed the fact that he had been bashed over the head (Oops!), and decided he was merely drunk. Because of that mistake, every aspect of the response was botched; police failed to investigate the crime right away, and emergency workers and the hospital where they eventually took him failed to immediately treat him for his serious head injury. Two days later, he died.

Last November, his family sued the city and the hospital for $20 million. On Thursday, they settled their lawsuit with the city, for no money (Washington Post):

The family of a slain New York Times journalist yesterday agreed to forgo the potential of millions of dollars in damages in exchange for something that might be harder for the D.C. government to deliver: an overhaul of the emergency medical response system that bungled his care at nearly every step.

David E. Rosenbaum’s family said it will give up a $20 million lawsuit against the city — but only if changes are made within one year.

Under a novel legal settlement, the city agreed to set up a task force to improve the troubled emergency response system and look at issues such as training, communication and supervision. A member of the family will be on the panel.

Although legal experts said the family could have won millions had it pursued the case, Rosenbaum’s brother Marcus said he and other relatives were more interested in making sure that the city enacted measurable changes.

The family hasn’t abandoned the path of litigation entirely; their suit against Howard University Hospital continues. And the family can reinstate the lawsuit against the city if it fails to implement the reforms it has promised within a year.

Interestingly, a search of news coverage about this lawsuit did not reveal even one instance of any of the plaintiffs or their lawyers uttering the immortal mantra, “It’s not about the money.”


  • “Interestingly, a search of news coverage about this lawsuit did not reveal even one instance of any of the plaintiffs or their lawyers uttering the immortal mantra, “It’s not about the money.””

    But they as well know that the city will fail and then it will be about the money! This is a pretty neat solution, the city exhales deeply thinking they have time, (they do), but will squander it and fail to enact the needed requested changes.

    If they surprise the globe and do make the changes. No harm no foul and all citizens will be better off tomorrow, we presume.

    Since it’s almost a sure bet they won’t make it in time, I’m headed for Vegas and pulling odds! BIG TIME baby! 🙂

  • I’d love to be privy to the exchange of dialog between the plaintiff & their counsel when they told them there would likely be no pursuit of monetary damages, thus reducing the likelihood of a massive contingency fee.

    Would someone who is in this profession enlighten me on how the law firm would go about recovering their costs? Perhaps reasonable atty. fees would be slipped in to the fine print?

  • TC must have some experience with the D.C. government, as he is almost certainly correct — a city that can’t even plow its streets has practically no chance in succeeding in this endeavor.

  • The didn’t HAVE to say “it’s not about the money” because there’s no money involved. You only have to claim not to care about something if you are actually trying to GET that thing.

    Of course, this proves that most of the time, all those “not about the money” people really ARE about the money… which is so surprising, that I think I’ll go on with my day just like normal. (Or, to put it another way, “DUH!”)

    Kudos to the family, by the way. They’re a shining example in a bad mess.

  • Todd:

    Perhaps they’re paying their lawyer by the hour? It still happens in some cases.

    Besides, they still have the suit against the hospital.

  • Maybe they aren’t on contingency?

    And the family’s still going to get a bundle from the hospital. I can see cops and paramedics not noticing a dent in the head of a guy laying in a dark alley, but it’s a lot harder to excuse once he’s brought into a hospital.

  • I was wondering the same question you guys all raised about how the lawyers felt about this — but since the suit against the hospital continues, I assumed that’s how they’d get their cut.

    Deoxy, I meant that they’d say “it’s not about the money” at the beginning of the case, when they filed the suit.