The Unethical $27 Million George Floyd Settlement

george Floyd

As many commenters here are prone to say after a particularly outrageous unethical development or incident, “This should come as no surprise.” Minneapolis, which three days ago announced it would pay a record $27 million to settle the lawsuit brought by George Floyd’s family, has already shown itself to be led by feckless, wasteful and irresponsible officials at many junctures over the the past two years, notably in its support for defunding the police. That it should take this latest course, which is neither legally, financially nor logically defensible, is, if not exactly expected, at least consistent.

The news media is spinning, of course. The New York Times, cleverly but, as usual, misleadingly, headlined the story as “George Floyd’s Family Settles Suit Against Minneapolis for $27 Million.” Of course it did: not in the family’s wildest dreams could it have expected to acquire that much unearned wealth from the death of a man who was substantially responsible for his own fate— unlike, for example, the victim in the previous record for such settlements, Breonna Taylor, who was the victim of a shootout between her boyfriend and police in her own home. Her family settled for “only” $12 million. The story, the lede and the significant development is that Minneapolis agreed to pay this much. It certainly did not have to.

To begin with, congratulations are due to Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump. Crump is a remorseless trial attorney and race-hustler, and his pursuit of his legal niche has done incalculable harm to American race relations, racial progress, racial trust, national politics and the United States of America. Nonetheless, he has served his clients superbly, and that is what lawyers are pledged to do. Such a settlement has nothing to do with “justice,” but some vague and altruistic concept of justice has little to do with the legal profession.

I hope Crump has arranged for the amount to be paid out gradually and protected by an annuity, or Floyd’s family will find that it has been leached away completely within five years or less as various friends, relatives, politicians, non-profits and interest groups (especially Black Lives Matter) guilt them into hand-outs, gifts and contributions. Crump himself is presumably going to receive at least 30% of the $27 million, probably closer to 40%. You will notice that none of the news reports mention that. He earned it, but it is still a part of the story that would temper the unrestrained jubilation of the George Floyd cult.

And so it is not reported. That is journalism in the U.S. today.

How is the settlement unethical?

It is irresponsible. It is highly unlikely that the Floyd family could have received a jury award that large, or even close to it, in a civil suit. This is especially true if the emerging evidence in the Derek Chauvin trial shows that it was not the officer’s knee that caused Floyd’s death, and that Floyd’s drug overdose and other health factors, plus the fact that he was resisting arrest, were directly responsible for his demise.

[Aside: Floyd was also suffering from a Wuhan virus infection at the time of his death. Presumably he was listed as a pandemic victim.]

The motivation for settlement is usually to avoid the uncertainty and expense of a trial, as well as the risk of a higher damages award (against the defendant) or a lower one (for the plaintiff). This could not have been the motivation of the City Council here. The most similar precedent, the accidental death in police custody of Eric Garner in New York, resulted in a settlement of $5.9 million.

Why, then, did the City Council vote unanimously to pay such a huge amount?

  • It wasn’t their money, just that of the taxpayers of Minneapolis. The city coordinator said during a news conference that with cash reserves, officials were “confident” that the Floyd agreement would not lead to an increase in property taxes. We shall see.
  • The politicians were virtue-signaling, Nobody had the integrity to oppose the payout, which would have resulted in naysayers being tarred as racists, if not having their homes burned down.
  • Two years ago, Minneapolis agreed to pay $20 million to the family of Justine Ruszczyk, a white yoga instructor who was fatally shot by Mohamed Noor, a police officer who is Somali. She was white, the officer was black. The racial bias protests would have written themselves if Floyd’s family didn’t get more: the white woman’s life was worth more than the black man’s life! Facts don’t matter: Ruszczyk was shot after calling 911 by an officer who mistook her for a criminal when she ran out to meet the responding squad car, which is about as distinguishable from the Floyd case as one could be.
  • The settlement was a virtual extortion payment. The prosecution of Chauvin and the current trial is a threat to result in more riots down the line. Maybe the exorbitant payment to Floyd’s family will mitigate their size, violence and damage. Maybe.
  • Consistent with this motive for the payout, Crump said at a news conference that the agreement would “allow healing to begin” in the city. The family  pledged to donate $500,000 of its haul to “lift up” the neighborhood around 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where the police arrested Floyd on May 25, 2020 for passing a counterfeit bill. (Let’s see: $27 million minus 40% for Crump off the top, minus another $500,000…my five year estimate may have been optimistic.) Mayor Jacob Frey said on Twitter that the agreement “reflects a shared commitment to advancing racial justice and a sustained push for progress.” So this isn’t so much a settlement for Floyd’s death as a disguised transfer of wealth to the black community and the advancement of a vague social agenda. Though the narrative is that Floyd was a victim of “systemic racism,” the available evidence indicates that Chauvin would have treated him exactly the same if he had been white.
  • The settlement was consequentialism in action. It resulted in great part from the magnitude of the hysterical and violent response to Floyd’s death, or the symbolism of a white knee on a black neck. Though not reflecting the reality of the fatal incident, the image alone led to protests in hundreds of cities, including Minneapolis, where a police station and many businesses were burned over several nights of violence.  None of this should have resulted in more money for the family; the reaction to the event logically did not alter the extent of the damages due to Floyd’s relations.

There are serious costs of this capitulation beyond the money itself.

Legal experts agree that the settlement might make it even more difficult to find an impartial jury in the Chauvin trial, a task that already seemed nearly impossible because of the media coverage of the case. Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender in Minneapolis, said that the timing of the settlement could not be worse for the criminal case, and that Chauvin’s lawyers could legitimately seek a mistrial, since jurors’ views could be influenced by the deal.

Thus the City Council’s payment to avoid more rioting may lead to a result that will guarantee more rioting.

Good plan! Putting such fears to rest (I am being arch) , a spokeswoman for Minneapolis said the settlement was “independent and separate from the criminal trial underway.” Oh. No problem then! Carry on!

The settlement will also surely cost other communities around the nation, as this deal has recast what is a “reasonable” settlement for a black man who dies in a confrontation with police, whatever the circumstances, regardless of fault.

10 thoughts on “The Unethical $27 Million George Floyd Settlement

  1. “I hope Crump has arranged for the amount to be paid out gradually and protected by an annuity, or Floyd’s family will find that it has been leached away completely within five years or less as various friends, relatives, politicians, non-profits and interest groups (especially Black Lives Matter) guilt them into hand-outs, gifts and contributions.”

    This is what I wrote about a year or so ago…the concept of “Giving Back to the Community” which seems to be an expectation of any African-American who has more money than others, regardless of whether or not that money was the result of attaining success in a local business or winning the lottery…or, in this case, a financial settlement.

    “The family pledged to donate $500,000 of its haul to “lift up” the neighborhood around 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where the police arrested Floyd on May 25, 2020 for passing a counterfeit bill. ”

    That’ll be a down payment on their giving back obligation. Presumably, they’ll wait until after the riots spurred by the verdict to throw that money at the neighborhood.

    • No one’s “giving back obligation” ever ends or is completed. Charity’s a racket. The lowest form of it is family members who put pressure on you to bail out the family screw-up yet again, at the risk of everybody hearing about how you didn’t at the holidays and judging you. Then come the local folks: the churches, soup kitchens, whoever, who somehow always seem to know when you’ve gotten a raise or a bonus and ask you to “share your good fortune.” Then come the chuggers, the charities you’ve never even heard of, but who somehow got your name somehow know that you’re doing better, and think their cause is entitled to a share. Give once, and they’ll be back next year or even sooner, remarking on how costs have gone up or how they are facing a shortfall, and hoping you’ll “dig a little deeper” to support their good work. No, go to hell. If I’m doing well, this means it’s MY turn to upgrade my ride, or build my shore house, or take that trip to Europe I’ve been wanting to take for years but could never swing because the transmission died, or the furnace went, or the kid needed braces.

    • And this is why we can’t have nice things. I remember a case in Detroit where an elderly man shot some 18-year olds who were in his garage stealing everything in sight. Relevant facts were that this 70-year old man was the only adult in the house, his 4 young grandchildren were in the house, the door from the house to the garage did not have a lock, there were over a dozen teenagers in his garage. He confronted them at the doorway to the garage and when they came at him, he fired. He was charged and convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life. The prosecutor stated that these killings were a senseless act and it all could have been avoided if the defendant had just been willing to share what he had with his neighbors.This is an attitude that makes sure no one gets ahead.

      • When I retired, a friend from high school (who’s lived her entire adult life in the great socialist state of Austria, you know, the former Empire) said to me, “So now you can give back.” I responded that as far as I knew I’d never taken anything.

      • Yes, and a man was murdered in that zone last week. The police were prevented from responding so his body was carried to the other side of the barriers where he could be brought to a local hospital and pronounced DOA. He had been a troubled youth who was trying to turn his life around and had begun mentoring other young men. I’m waiting for the outrage from BLM over the loss.

        (Yeah, I know, I know…)

  2. Well, I guess the trial lawyers in MN have a bit more leeway in how much they can ask for in contingency fees. In NJ the contingency fee (after costs are paid) may not be more than one-third of the first $500,000. For the next $500,000 it may not exceed 30%. Thereafter it may not exceed 25% or 20% of the third and fourth $500,000; respectively.

    If the amount of the verdict or settlement goes beyond $2 million, I think you must make a fee application to the court, and the court decides what you get. It’s an unspoken rule, though, that you should not ask for more than the above guidelines, even if the case was complicated or involved a protracted appeals process. The above does not represent a floor on fees and the courts can and will award less than the above either if they think the particular attorney is getting greedy or to send a message to the plaintiffs’ bar not to get greedy.

    Very few judges (who are appointed, not elected, in NJ) come from the plaintiffs’ bar. Most come from either the big and well-connected firms (which don’t do a lot of that kind of work), from the political class, or from public service where they have made reputations and relationships with the political class. They make base salary $173,000 and frequently go almost a decade, sometimes more, between raises. They generally don’t like the plaintiffs’ bar, partially because of people like Crump, and when they get the opportunity to stick it to them, they take it. I don’t like the plaintiffs’ bar myself. I think tort lawyers are nothing but ambulance chasers and I think civil rights lawyers have an exaggerated sense of how important they and their clients are, as well as anger management issues. If they can’t build that addition on their shore house this year, or can’t buy the latest Rolex, or can’t buy a 2021 Jag to replace their 2020 Jag, I’m not going to lose sleep.

  3. The family pledged to donate $500,000 of its haul to “lift up” the neighborhood around 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where the police arrested Floyd on May 25, 2020 for passing a counterfeit bill.

    Good luck with that, seeing as how the City has essentially ceded control of that particular area to armed criminal gangs. They’ve set up barricades and everything. Maybe they’ll “lift up” the local Bloods, but that’s about it.

  4. Does the settlement come from the police budget?

    “Sorry, we just de-funded that department at YOUR request. Now there’s no settlement money to be paid out. Have a nice day!”

    –Dwayne

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