City shells out $16 million in settlements over 9 months

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The city is paying big bucks to settle lawsuits covering everything from police car and bus crashes to people tripping over cracks in the sidewalk. 

Some of the $16 million in settlements cover more well-known cases, like in April 2016 when Melissa Dominguez, caught while trying to cash forged checks, slipped out of her handcuffs and stole an APD cruiser. 

She led police on a dangerous joyride with a crashing end.

The two people hit by Dominguez sued the city for APD’s negligence, and the city’s most recent litigation report shows they were just awarded more than $63,000 for their injuries.

It’s one of dozens of lawsuits settled by the city of Albuquerque over a nine-month period.

KRQE News 13 spoke with a UNM law professor about the constant wave of lawsuits against the city.

“I think it’s now more than ever a national pastime — filing suits and personal injury suits are something that just happens every single day and multiple times a day, especially in Albuquerque,” attorney Justin Goodman said.

Many of them are strange, including one at Central and San Mateo where a woman got $50,000 after falling into an open manhole.

Another case involved a bicyclist who hit a pile of sand that formed on the concrete Bosque bike trail.  That person was awarded $165,000.

Then in a downtown parking garage, a man got stuck in the elevator for 40 minutes and claims he hurt his leg when rescuers had him jump out of it. He got more than $13,000 for his troubles.

The city’s risk manager said sometimes they settle cases just to save money in the long run.

“Sometimes, we’re clearly responsible for what may have happened. And in other cases, not so much so we often, when we settle with things, we deny liability,” Risk Manager Peter Ennen said.

There were 18 incidents of people getting paid after crashing with buses, APD units or other city vehicles.

As usual, the lions share of the money goes to settle APD cases.

Early this year, the city paid out $5 million to settle Mary Hawkes’ case.

The teen was shot and killed after a foot chase back in 2014 by an officer who didn’t have his camera on.

He was then fired for repeatedly failing to turn on his camera.

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