City renews emphasis on settling lawsuits after costly year



Posted on May 29, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Updated Thursday, May 29 at 10:44 AM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The City of Spokane placed a renewed emphasis on resolving lawsuits in a timely matter after spending more than $1.5 million in 2013 to deal with hundreds of claims.

City leaders said dozens of the 367 claims dealt with in 2013 had carried over from prior years.  KREM 2 On Your Side asked Brian Coddington with the City of Spokane what was being done to reduce lawsuits against the City.

“We are focusing on more training, but these 2013 stats also reflect a philosophy by the Mayor and the City Attorney that we need to get these things taken care of,” Coddington said.

A public disclosure request revealed that 188 of the claims in 2013 cost the City nothing to settle. Many of the remaining cases shared a common factor; they involved driving.  

KREM 2 News asked Coddington if the City was addressing that issue with additional training or if it was just the cost of doing business.

“Safety is our top priority,” Coddington said. “We do have over 2,000 employees who do a lot of driving. Some use heavy equipment and machinery to get the citizens the services they need.”

Coddington said car crashes and property damage sometimes happen in the process. Most of the claims against the City involved solid waste maintenance, recycling and the Spokane Police Department. One of the cases that resulted in a payout involved a street cleaner that crashed into a vehicle.

“As we’re out working the streets, occasionally accidents will happen,” Coddington said. “In this case, our street cleaner hit a vehicle on Division.”

The driver who filed that claim against the City received about $10,000. A similar lawsuit involving a Spokane Police Officer cost the City $17,500.

Coddington said leaders are realistic about what they do, though it would be nice to see the number of claims against the City drop to zero.

“When you have a lot of moving parts and pieces, sometimes accidents do happen,” he said.

The City used its risk management fund and insurance to settle the lawsuits.