[UPDATE: After this post was published, Eric Garner's family accepted a $5.9 million settlement from New York City.]
The widow of Eric Garner, the Staten Island man choked to death by NYPD officers last year, has rejected an offer of $5 million to settle a potential wrongful death lawsuit. Despite urging from the family's attorney to accept the money, Esaw Garner declined the offer and the family has indicated it intends to sue the city instead, for $75 million.
Although a coroner declared Garner's death a homicide, a grand jury decided not to bring criminal charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who applied the fatal chokehold.
Settlement or Trial?
Deciding whether to settle an injury lawsuit is a complicated process with various factors to be considered. Parties must weigh their likelihood of success at trial against the added time, cost, and risk of putting a case before a jury.
In this case, Garner's family and their attorney, Jonathan Moore, have been negotiating with Comptroller Scott Stringer and his office. According to sources, Moore encouraged the family to accept the $5 million settlement and seek further damages from the EMTs, who may possibly have mishandled Garner's care after arriving at the scene.
Both sides declined to comment on the negotiations and are expected to continue settlement talks until Friday, at which point the statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim will expire.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
A wrongful death claim is filed by the family or estate of a person who died due to someone else's fault. Wrongful death claims have a lower burden of proof than criminal charges, and require the plaintiff to prove:
- The death of a human being
- That the death was caused by another's negligence, or intent to harm
- The survival of family members who are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death
Wrongful death claims may have special considerations when it comes to the statute of limitations, but in this case, Garner's family will need to decide whether to settle or sue fairly quickly.