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$7M Settlement in Sean Bell Wrongful Death

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 03, 2010 7:09 AM

Last week, the City of New York came to a settlement agreement with the family of Sean Bell, the young man who was shot and killed by police officers on the eve of his wedding in 2006. Payments will also be made to two friends of Bell's who were with him at the time and were injured in the shooting, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. The two will be paid $3 million and $900,000, respectively. The agreement will pay $3.25 million to Bell's two children and the estate will be administered by Bell's fiancée, Nicole Paultre-Bell.

As discussed in a prior post, the officers involved in the shooting were acquitted of criminal charges linked to their actions on the night of Bell's death. However, one of the officers is pursuing a personal injury claim against Bell's estate for injuries to his leg he claims were caused by Bell before he fired his gun.

According to the Wall Street Journal, while the city admits to no wrongdoing under the settlement, the officers involved have been given modified duty and still face departmental charges that could result in the loss of their positions.

The settlement brings a close to the wrongful death suit against the city brought by Bell's family. The Journal reports that the Bell's attorney, Sanford Rubenstein, called the agreement "a fair and reasonable settlement." The settlement was hammered out over two days of intensive negotiations in federal court in Brooklyn, Mr. Rubenstein said.

Wrongful death suits seek to compensate the survivors of the victim for the loss of life. Although states' laws differ, this often includes compensation based on the potential lifetime earnings of the victim and as well as some compensation for the loss of assistance and even comfort and companionship that the decedent would have provided to a spouse or other family members.

"The Sean Bell shooting highlighted the complexities our dedicated officers must face each day. The City regrets the loss of life in this tragic case, and we share our deepest condolences with the Bell family," Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo said in a statement about the settlement.

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