Following a multiple car accident caused by a Scottsdale Police officer in 2019, another affected driver has sought compensation from the city due to personal costs incurred as a result of the incident.
At the May 17 Scottsdale City Council meeting, the mayor and council approved a $75,000 settlement for Robert Kirkwood, one of the four drivers impacted by a rear-end collision started by Officer Nathan Stephenson of the Scottsdale Police Department.
The accident in question occurred on east McDowell Road and north 74th Street on Sept. 5, 2019. Kirkwood alleged that Stephenson caused the accident by rear-ending the vehicle in front of him.
Previously in June of 2021, another driver reached a settlement with the city to cover accident-related damages totaling $37,000 in money received from the city. Ryan Carney, the driver from that settlement, also alleged that Stephenson caused the accident.
In a city staff report, it was stated that Kirkwood “alleged that he was injured and incurred medical bills totaling $114,000 because of the collision.”
According to the report, he is also claiming damages for future medical care as a result of this incident and a separate damage claim for the property damage suffered by his vehicle. Kirkwood filed a notice of claim asking for $500,000 to settle the claim.
“Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the City and Officer Stephenson in the Superior Court of Maricopa County,” the report stated.
After the lawsuit was officially filed, the city and Kirkwood entered into formal mediation on April 26, 2022, using an independent mediator. During this time the two were able to agree upon a settlement amount of $75,000.
The report further explained that city staff recommended that city council approve this settlement due to the cost, uncertainty and risk of moving forward to trial in the lawsuit, as it would be more costly than the negotiated settlement.
“This proposed settlement would resolve the entirety of the lawsuit, including all related fees and costs,” the report stated.
If the settlement had not been approved, the issue would be set for trial, and additional city resources and staff would be necessary to continue the defense of the case. There would also be significant expenditures for “taking and defending multiple expert witnesses’ depositions.”
The report estimated that the city would need an additional $50,000 or more in costs and attorneys’ fees to defend this case in the trial if the settlement were denied.
To pay the settlement, the cost may be included within Scottsdale’s primary property tax rate for the following year, however, this will depend on the opinion of the Arizona Attorney General.
“The City of Scottsdale has a long-standing practice of including paid tort settlements equal to or greater than $20,000 in the city’s primary tax rate to reimburse the self-insured fund for payment of the claim,” the report stated.
Now that the settlement has been approved, city staff will complete the settlement documents as stated, and the plaintiff will receive his settlement within a reasonable timeframe following the processing of the settlement papers.
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