“Fighting Suits Saves Money for Chicago”

Vowing no longer to be Mister Nice City (assuming it ever qualified as such), Chicago is now willing to pay $50,000 to fight (successfully) a police-misconduct case it could have settled for $10,000:

Even though the city stands to lose money litigating every case under $100,000, a spokeswoman for the law department said that recently compiled figures showed the strategy seemed to be saving taxpayer money by dissuading lawyers from suing the police unless they are confident of victory.

(& welcome Coyote readers).


  • There is a significant opportunity for patronage, also (selecting the private firms who will litigate on the city’s behalf). Looks like a “win-win” from the viewpoint of the city administration.

  • I wish more clients would realize this. Settling repeatedly just makes you a “mark”. Fight back and see what happens.

  • According to the news story, the city negotiated a set rate of $35,000 with a $15,000 bonus for winning. I don’t know about Chicago, but most cases where I am end up costing significantly more to take through trial.

  • Walter, I wish you had found a private company to cite that followed this practice. I’m looking at this from a libertarian perspective and as I mentioned to Coyote, this is awful. The city’s source of income is not products or services, but taxation. And encouraging its police to fight every lawsuit is a detriment to efforts to reign in abuses of police power !
    Looking at strictly the money “saved” by the city is a short term focus only. I wonder what the city will decide to spend that money on….without consulting those who paid the taxes.

  • New York City seems to have a similar policy where they refuse to settle meritorious cases, and instead tries to discourage “small” cases by making the expense of litigating them greater than any economically viable recovery.

    It therefore brings a smile to my face when the City gets burned when a case that had a $50K settlement value goes for $1.1 million by a runaway jury. http://statecases.justia.com/new-york/appellate-division-second-department/2008/april/2006-06625/2008-03574-htm-brown-v-city-of-new-york/

    Does this change City policy? Of course not. The City attorneys don’t care if they win, lose or draw; it is not their money.

  • BGS:

    I seriously doubt that “City attorneys don’t care”: in fact, they fight a heroic battle in a setting where pretty much everything is working against them: a powerful (and politcally connected) plaintiff’s bar, a crushing number of ridiculous lawsuits, judges who are often unsympathetic to the City, and juries that treat tax dollars like Monopoly money. Meanwhile, they’re paid a very modest salary compared to the “Biglaw” crowd.

    In New York City, you could (and maybe still can) sue for SLIPPING ON THE SNOW. Are those the “meritorious” cases you’re talking about? I once defended a case where a Rikers inmate slipped on water in the shower. Think for a second about why that case might not be so “meritorious.”

    It’s also ridiculous to suggest that it’s the City driving up litigation costs: plaintiffs are the ones who demand the depositions of every agency employee and boxes of documents — in a personal injury case, the only discovery the City really gets is the plaintiff’s deposition and medical records.

    Nobody who claims that “it brings a smile to my face” to see the City socked for 1 million in a case worth 50K is operating on principles of fairness, justice or good faith.

  • You all say – “fools, some of these cases are going to cost more!”

    But you’re not looking at the long term benefit. What would you all say if new cases filed fell by, say, 50%+?

  • AMcA – you completely missed my point. I am drawing a distinction between public entities and private companies. That doesn’t have much to do with the money involved, it has to do with holding public servants – both police and city officials – accountable for their decisions and actions. They don’t earn their salaries by providing a competitive service that you can choose not to use. When they abuse their power, what do you suggest as a remedy ?

  • For TomG:

    It depends on the type of abuse. If it amounts to an assault, you can go to the district attorney, or other officials. Justin Volpe is serving a substantial sentence for sodomizing Abner Louima.

    If you feel unjustly harassed, you can demonstrate as was done at Stonewall in New York City.

    As long as a city settles easily, there will be Johnnie Cochrans to make a buck using extortionate tactics.