City: ‘Expenditures show no pattern or trend’
By Philip Haldiman
The city of Peoria paid out more than $1.6 million in claim settlements from Fiscal Years 2014 to 2018, according to public records obtained by Peoria Today.
This comes out to an annual average of 28 claims at $11,792 each and $327,830 annually.
Data from the five-year period shows the city had higher out-of-court settlements in Fiscal Year 2014 with 35 cases totaling $931,770, and in Fiscal Year 2017 with 20 cases totaling $418,231.
The city also had 32 cases totaling $176,346 in Fiscal Year 2015, 35 cases totalizing $76,888 in Fiscal Year 2016, and 17 cases totaling $35,918 in 2018.
Spokeswoman Jennifer Stein said the majority of the claims asserted against the city are for minimal property damage or minor personal injuries, but more serious claims may seek millions of dollars in damages.
She said that in 2014 and 2017 there were varying claims, settlements and/or associated defense costs stemming from claims — cases such as auto liability, personal injury and damage to non-city property. Some of these claims, or cases, were finally settled in 2014 or 2017, but they were initiated years prior to these dates, she said.
“Claims payments and defense expenses are unpredictable and are dependent upon unique facts, actions and impacts of each event or loss,” she said. “These expenditures have established no recurring annual patterns or trends that a city can accurately chart or predict over time.”
The city has a one-million dollar self-insured retention along with additional layers of insurance coverage and excess policies above that.
Ms. Stein said the city obtains a variety of insurance policies — ranging from liability and property to cyber and others — with varying deductibles and self-insured retention levels, and obtains that insurance on a fiscal year basis.
The insurance is renewed by the city council on an annual basis and the city spends a little more than a million dollars on insurance policies. She said the city self-insures for the first million dollars of general and auto liability.
In municipal matters and in others matters, most disputes are settled before they go to litigation, which is often expensive.
Ms. Stein said avoiding going to court can reduce costs, risk or other factors.
It is important to be mindful of taxpayer dollars because even if a case is handled by in-house counsel, the city often incurs expenditures for experts and other litigation costs, she said.
“In addition, litigation can be disruptive to the city’s conduct of its daily business as employees will be called away from their ordinary duties to participate in litigation proceedings,” she said. “Litigation can also be stressful for employees if the litigation claims they were negligent or otherwise derelict in the performance of their duties.”
When managing a claim or potential lawsuit, the city makes a number of determinations before litigation is considered.
Ms. Stein said it is critical to include the process of risk and cost-benefit analysis as the facts, law, and evidence in a case are determined.
Litigation is resource-intensive, time consuming and stressful to the parties involved, she said.
“In matters of settling out of court, the city considers whether it may have some liability exposure and/or whether it is a case where the city might be liable for the other party’s attorneys’ fees or costs,” she said. “It also must weigh the costs of litigation, which may include the retention of outside counsel and expert witness fees.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697 or email@example.com. Visit YourValley.net.
Paying out of court
The city of Peoria paid out 139 claims totaling about $1.6 million from Fiscal Years 2014 to 2018, coming out to an annual average of 28 claims at $11,792 each and $327,830 per year. Here is the breakdown for each individual year.
Claims paid: 35
Total amount paid $931,770
Claims : 32
Total amount paid: $176,346
Total amount paid: $76,888
Total amount paid: $418,231
Total amount paid: $35,918
Source: City of Peoria