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Eric Garner Wrongful Death Case Settled at $5.9M

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 16, 2015 3:59 PM

Just a few days before the one year anniversary of his death, Eric Garner's family reached a settlement in its wrongful-death claim against New York City.

Last year, on July 17, 2014, police attempted to arrest Eric Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes. According to the police, Garner resisted arrest, so one officer used a chokehold, which is prohibited by the Police Department's policies. By the end of the short struggle, Garners' cries of "I can't breathe" subsided, and he died.

Not long after, Garner's family filed a wrongful death claim against the city.

Suing the Government

The procedure for suing the government is much more complex than suing a company or another person.

Most cities, states, and government agencies require victims to first file a notice of claim with the city or appropriate government agency. The city will then investigate and decide whether to make a settlement offer or deny the claim. If the city makes an offer, and the victim accepts, the case is closed. If the city denies the claim, then the victim can proceed with filing a lawsuit against the city.

The $5.9 Million Settlement

In this case, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer wanted to settle quickly to avoid a lengthy lawsuit and to save the city money. The city initially offered Garner's family $5 million, which they rejected last week. This week, the family accepted a higher offer of $5.9 million.

Despite the settlement, the city has not admitted any fault in the case.

What Happens Now?

Even after this settlement, the city's troubles over Garner's death are not over.

A grand jury previously decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed Garner in the chokehold, of a crime. However, the Justice Department is investigating whether Pantaleo violated Garner's civil rights.

Garner's family is not celebrating the nearly $6 million settlement. At a press conference, Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, told the media that she will not celebrate until the Justice Department pursues civil rights charges against Pantaleo and other officers involved.

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