Record Settlement Reached In George Floyd Case
The mayor of Minneapolis announced a record settlement that will require the city to dip into its rainy day funds. The $27 million payment to the family of George Floyd is more than all the money the city has to pay off lawsuits. The rainy day fund is set aside to cover emergencies and other costs that are otherwise unanticipated. These include other police brutality lawsuits filed against the city.
The settlement was announced in a 90-minute news conference that featured members of George Floyd’s family donning masks that read the amount of time former officer Daniel Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck before he died.
Damages in lawsuits of this type are generally capped by sovereign immunity laws that prevent the city’s fund from being depleted. Each department within the city tends to contribute some money toward the fund as a means of self-insuring themselves.
Understanding Sovereign Immunity and Police Brutality Lawsuits
The vast majority of police brutality lawsuits will not end up with significant settlements. The size of the settlement is capped by sovereign immunity and these rules are very difficult to overcome. If a plaintiff wants a larger settlement than the one capped by sovereign immunity, that would require them to petition the legislature for a larger settlement. This rarely happens. Even here in Florida where Parkland parents lost children in the massacre that occurred on the premises of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shootings may see their damages capped at $350,000—not for each parent—but for all the families to split. Lawsuits against individual police officers or other agents of the government are also prevented by law.
However, with many of these high-profile police slayings, including Breonna Taylor, the outrage has forced cities to pacify residents with large settlements to the victims. This is certainly the case with George Floyd. To avoid further unrest in Minneapolis, the city staged a highly-visible 90-minute press conference with the family of George Floyd and the mayor himself announcing the settlement.
Changes to Policing
The hoped-for outcome of these settlements is that police do a better job of policing themselves and each other. However, the police unions are quite powerful in their representative cities and have made the process difficult. With that said, high-profile police slayings will never become the norm in America. Americans are outraged by the abuses of government and will not tolerate being murdered by those who are tasked with protecting them. Hopefully, this will result in better awareness of mental health issues that can prevent many of these needless deaths.
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