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Buffalo approves paying $4M to settle 2 city lawsuits

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Buffalo's Common Council voted Tuesday to pay just over $4 million to settle two major lawsuits against the city.

The Council has a Claims Committee that formally meets twice a year to pay bills city lawyers say should be paid. Many of them are not a lot of money, like $151.16 or $225. However, some are a lot more expensive and reflect the fact that the city has a lot of people out there at the wheel.

Claims Chairman Joel Feroleto said it is an organized process.

"First of all, they have to file what's called a Notice of Claim, which is governed by law when they have to apply for that," he said. "Then the claim is negotiated if they try to settle with the City of Buffalo Law Department. So it does not come to the Council until after it's recommended by the City of Buffalo corporation counsel to approve these actions."

The Council accepted lawyer advice to pay just over $4 million in bills. The biggest payment was $3.25 million growing out of an accident when a city tow truck driver ran a stoplight in front of a passenger car. Claims Committee Chairman Joel Feroleto says the two people in the car were very badly hurt and a jury agreed.

"One instance, for example, it went to a jury," said Feroleto. "The jury found that the city was liable and awarded the plaintiff $3 million."

The final payments were based upon settlement talks, during which city lawyers decided an appeal would just run up the cost. The city has to pay 9 percent interest on unpaid claims, something that would quickly mount when millions of dollars are involved and appeals take time - $7-$8 million Feroleto said.

The second large payment was $750,000 from an accident involving a speeding police car and a driver.

"A jury determined that the defendants, who were in fact a Buffalo police officer, was at fault for causing the injury," Feroleto said.

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