Two city hospitals in the Bronx along with several police precincts are costing the city an arm an a leg.
In a report by city Comptroller John Liu’s office, the Bronx ranked number one in police action claims in Fiscal Year 2011, ending June 30, with a total of 1,632 of the total 8,882 cases it settled.
Two Bronx municipal hospitals – Lincoln and Jacobi – ranked second and third behind Brooklyn’s Kings County for the highest number of complaints, with Lincoln paying out the largest amount of any city hospital – $24.9 million.
As for the NYPD, at the end of FY2011, total settlement payouts jumped significantly to $185.6 million from $137.3 million in FY2010, the highest settlement payout of any City agency.
Most of the settlements involved alleged police brutality, some civil rights violations, and property damage.
The 44th Precinct covering Mt. Eden, Highbridge, West Concourse, East Concourse, and Concourse Village, ranked first in the city for settlements, with 330 cases.
While the nature of the complaints is unclear, the precinct recorded the highest number of stop-and-frisk cases involving force in the city that fiscal year.
In descending order of complaints, the 46th, 41st, 40th, and 42nd Precincts along the western side of the Bronx had the most payouts in the Bronx.
Liu called the surge in police-misconduct allegations and civil-rights claims “an alarm bell for the City.”
Monroe College criminal justice professor Jason Gerald suggests one factor behind the bump in the top five precincts is the placement of rookie cops in high-crime areas, or Impact Zones as they are called.
“They have less experience and less life experience,” said Gerald, a retired NYPD sergeant who worked in Internal Affairs.
The report recommends settling lawsuits as early as possible. But Liu spokesman Stephanie Hoo called the suggestion a balance.
“You don’t want to settle too early because that would open them up to more cases,” said Hoo.
It also proposed creating a task force to curb the number of city lawsuits, including tracking the officers named in claim suits and the nature of the payouts.
But NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said such a task force is already in the works.
He also called many of the claims “a cottage industry for plaintiff’s lawyers, particularly in the Bronx.”
Those making claims against the police “look for quick walk away money whether theirs are legitimate or not,” Browne charged.
“Most are legitimate,” said professor Gerald, “but there’s a definite factor where you see repeat lawsuits in the city.”
Liu’s report found Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center paid out the highest amount in medical malpractice claims of any city hospital in FY2011, with a total $24.9 million paid in 34 cases resolved, with average payment of $732,000 per claimant.
Jacobi Medical Center didn’t fare much better, with 31 cases resolved for $21.4 million, the third highest of any city hospital after Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital, which had the highest total number of resolved cases in the city at 38. Jacobi’s $21.4 million in payouts averaged $690,000 per claim.
Both Lincoln and Jacobi’s payouts increased over FY2010, when they averaged $507,000 and $323,000 respectively.
However, the comptroller’s report also indicated the total number of cases resolved may actually be an older indicator, because medical malpractice cases often take “five and ten years to resolve because of their complexity,” the report states.
The total number of new claims filed citywide for medical malpractice at city-run hospitals declined from 657 in FY2010 to 609 in FY2011, according to the report, with both Lincoln and Jacobi seeing a reduction.
The entire city hospital system has seen a significant reduction in the total number of claims paid out in the past eight years, said Health and Hospitals Corp. spokesman Ian Michaels, “and is now paying $59 million less annually compared to the high mark in 2003.”
He attributed the decrease to “an efficient claims management program, a focus on closing out long standing cases, early settlements that save legal fees associated with bringing cases to trial, aggressive investigations, and court-assisted mediation.”
Bronx juries, he added, historically tend to grant plaintiffs high awards.
David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383