By STEVE JONES Staff writer
The city is close to settling an $8 million lawsuit for $20,000, according to Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Benedict.
The Board of Estimate and Contract will likely vote on the proposed settlement at its meeting on Thursday, May 10, said Benedict. The suit, filed by Karen Liberta of Batavia, claimed that she was wrongfully arrested and denied medical treatment in 2007.
In the lawsuit against the city, the police department and Patrolman Michael Yoxall, Liberta claims that she had been in a car accident that resulted in post-concussion syndrome and required prescription medicine for related issues. On Sept. 18, 2007, after the previous accident, she was driving eastbound on Potter Road in Rome when she was overcome by seizures, causing her to be "involved in a rear end accident." Officer Yoxall arrived on the scene and observed Liberta’s "disoriented state" and "uncertain gait," and conducted field sobriety tests on Liberta. He took her into custody despite a 0.0 percent blood alcohol content, the suit states. She was charged with driving under the influence of drugs, a violation. All charges were eventually dismissed, except for a traffic violation for following too closely.
U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd had set a jury trial date of May 7, but the settlement will mean no trial. Hurd had already dismissed the false arrest claim. The only claim left, said Benedict, was that the city failed to provide medical attention.
"There’s no admission of liability, it’s solely an assessment of risk," Benedict said. Because any monetary award to Liberta — even $1 — could have left the city liable for her attorney’s fees, the city did not want to risk having to pay those costs, which could have exceeded $50,000, he said.