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Your Tax Dollars at Work?

Your Tax Dollars at Work?

Lawsuits Cost ABQ Taxpayers an Average of $700,000 a Month

The city paid $1.3 million in damages for suits against ABQ Ride, and $700,000 for suits against Solid Waste

A significant share of payouts stem from APD cases

(c) ABQ Free Press

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

City Hall paid out $12.6 million in lawsuit settlements and judgments in the 18 months that ended March 31 – an average of $700,000 per month –with a fifth of all payouts stemming from cases against the Albuquerque Police Department.

Those figures, provided to the City Council by the city’s legal department, didn’t include the city’s $6.5 million settlement with former APD officer Jacob Grant, who was shot eight times by his own lieutenant in January 2015. The city settled the case on March 30, but didn’t pay Grant until later.

The cases offer a glimpse into who sues the city and for what reasons. By far, APD is the biggest target with 34 of 100 settlements or verdicts coming in cases that involved the department and its officers.

But people have sued, and received settlements from the city, for sewage backups, being hit by buses and garbage trucks, falling into a six-foot-deep hole at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, obstructions on bicycle paths and having seats break on them at Isotopes Park.

The city paid $1.3 million in damages for suits against the bus system, or ABQ Ride, and $700,000 for lawsuits against the Solid Waste Department.

The biggest settlement was for $3.4 million and involved a 2005 eminent domain action the city filed against a company, Home Stewart LLC. The company counterclaimed the city for breach of a road construction contract, and the city settled the case during the second quarter of FY15.

The City Attorney’s Office gave the quarterly litigation reports to the council on June 14. The reports are supposed to be filed on a quarterly basis with the council, but delays caused the city to give the council reports from seven quarters at once.

The biggest payout involving APD was $500,000 and was the result of a combination verdict and settlement in a lawsuit by tow truck driver Jerry Rodriguez who said he was thrown to the ground by APD plainclothes officers in December 2010 after leaving a local restaurant. The police were apparently looking for a vehicle that had been involved in a homicide.

Some other settlements by the city included:

* $20,000 to a 13-year-old boy who was arrested at Jackson Middle School.

* $617,500 to a man who said he was injured when his bicycle struck a bump on a bike path near Tingley Pond.

* $312,500 to a woman who hit a pothole while riding her bicycle. She was then struck by a vehicle.

*$10,000 to a woman who said an APD horse stepped on her foot after its rider negligently maneuvered the animal.

* $15,500 to a man who said he was injured while being transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center. The man said the injury occurred when city van taking him to the jail struck a cow.

* $500,000 to a female pedestrian who was hit by a city bus.

* $27,500 to a woman who was injured at an Isotopes game when the seat of her chair broke.

 

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.