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Possible Settlement Being Looked at in Eric Garner Civil Suit

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City Comptroller Scott Stringer is seeking to negotiate a settlement with the family of Eric Garner, news that has raised some questions since civil settlements are usually handled by the city's law department. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

In October, the family of Eric Garner, who died after being arrested by police on Staten Island, filed a $75 million claim against the city. Now, City Comptroller Scott Stringer is already indicating he'd like to settle the case.

"We will work through our channels to have a discussion about a claim settlement or a resolution," Stringer said.

Stringer said an early settlement could save the city money and bring closure to the family. So far, though, there's been no finding of wrongdoing in the case. Whether a settlement would amount to an admission of liability, Stringer wouldn't say.

"I don't want to speculate because we have a legal matter in front of my office," he said.

The move could also be seen as undercutting Mayor Bill de Blasio, as it's ordinarily the city's law department that handles such cases.

In a city government where most elected officials align closely with the mayor's policy agenda, Stringer has emerged as something of a rival to the mayor, or at least a reliable check on City Hall's power. Most notably, he questioned the way the mayor had selected locations for his universal pre-K expansion.

In this case, though, Stringer said he's acting within his authority.

"The charter has given the comptroller's office this responsibility," he said. "This has been part of the work we do for decades and decades, and we have had success."

He referred specifically to his $6.4 million settlement with David Ranta, wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned more than 20 years. Stringer said litigation would likely have cost the city more.

In a statement, the law department said, "The Comptroller has the authority to settle claims against the City before a lawsuit is filed. We trust that he will exercise that authority wisely."

"We are not at odds with the law department. Anyone who writes that or says that just doesn't understand the process. We are actually working hand in hand," Stringer said.

Stay tuned. Stringer said the process of evaluating the Garners' claim hasn't even yet begun.

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