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NYC’s Shell Game to Avoid Being Sued

In 2003 when Evander Childs High School student Jamie Perez was slashed by two of his classmates, his attorney filed suit against the City of New York for the lax conditions that allowed this incident to occur. A Bronx judge found the City responsible for the school’s negligence. All of this made sense because the City has been largely in control of the public education system since Mayor Bloomberg’s dramatic education reforms in 2002.When the city appealed the decision, however, an appellate court dismissed the case altogether because of a bureaucratic booby trap that required attorneys to file suit against the otherwise defunct Board of Education rather than the City in all cases against the public school system. Jamie Perez and his family were left without a dime.This is just one of many instances where the City of New York has used its authority to deflect legitimate lawsuits that may cost the City large sums of money. The City controls an elaborate system of corporate entities, and in the event of an accident the victim is required to file a Notice of Claim to the correct entity within 90 days of the accident for the City to ever be held liable. If, as in the case of Jamie Perez, it is filed with the wrong party, the case against the City gets dismissed.No other defendant in New York is granted this benefit. The City has constructed the most convoluted organizational structure imaginable so that any attorney filing suit against the City has to be extremely careful to avoid having their case thrown out.Jamie Perez’ lawyer, like many lawyers who have been tripped up by this system, is now being sued for malpractice as a result of his mistake.The ordeals that Jamie Perez and his attorney have faced for the last decade make up only a small part of the bigger pattern of the City’s clever shirking of responsibility when faced with a lawsuit.Sources: New York Times, “The Board of Education Lives On, If Only to Be Sued” May 5, 2013.NYC Department of Education, “DOE Leadership” 2013.