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May 6, 2002


Legislation to be Introduced this Week in the City Council

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a comprehensive tort reform program that will enable New York City to level the legal playing field, gain control of rampant tort payouts and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers. The comprehensive package presented by the Mayor and Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo will also provide incentives to make sidewalks safer and allow the City to gauge better when sidewalk and roadway hazards exist. These proposals will be introduced at the City Council Stated Meeting on Wednesday May 8, 2002 and follow other tort reform legislation previously introduced in Albany. In his State of the City address in January, Mayor Bloomberg announced the City would seek comprehensive tort reform for the City's Judicial system.

"The City's tort payouts are larger than the budgets of most City agencies," said Mayor Bloomberg. "In fact, they are bigger than the budget of most municipalities in New York. In 1978, the City paid out $21 million in tort payouts. In 2001, the number had skyrocketed to more than half a billion dollars. This money could be far better spent on social issues including better schools, new teachers, more firefighters and police officers, and improving our infrastructure, especially as the City faces a fiscal crisis."

"This crisis is real," said Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo. "More than 14,000 claims are filed against the City each year and 9,000 lawsuits are commenced. The City also has 47,000 pending tort lawsuits."

The Mayor's package of reforms includes several critical elements, especially two important bills for consideration by the City Council:

In addition to the Council Legislation, the Mayor has introduced several bills in Albany to level the playing field for the City on Court actions, these bills include:

In looking at Mayor Bloomberg's entire tort reform package, Cardozo emphasized that the City is not removing or questioning a plaintiff's right to sue. "Rather, the Mayor's legislation evens the playing field and creates a fairer, more responsive system that weighs all parties' actions and holds each side accountable as necessary."

Cardozo highlighted the three main tenets of the legislation: 1) the law should put one back to where he or she was before an accident but should not "enrich" someone, 2) the law should create incentives for landowners to maintain their property and rational guidelines for the City to gauge if repairs are necessary, and 3) the law should hold defendants responsible for only their equitable share of fault and plaintiffs responsible for their own actions.

"These proposals provide a sensible way to address the serious issues posed by the huge growth of tort payouts, especially during the City's financial crisis," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Tort reform has been discussed year after year. It's time for us, the City Council and the State Legislature to cut through the politics and put into effect creative legislation that makes sense, gives the City a fair chance in court and resolves this serious issue."

Contact: Edward Skyler / Jordan Barowitz
(212) 788-2958
Kate O'Brien Ahlers (CC)
(212) 788-0400