Board committee approves another $ 1.6 million in workers’ compensation settlements
A Minneapolis city council committee voted Thursday to approve $ 1.6 million workers’ compensation settlements for nine police officers, as cop exodus continues over murder of George Floyd by the police.
As of June, the council had approved 16 settlements worth a total of $ 2.7 million for injuries sustained last year, according to the latest available data provided by the city.
This is only a fraction of the total pending claims: The number of workers’ compensation claims jumped almost 69% from 2019 to 2020, from 439 to 740 claims, largely due to police compensation claims, which increased significantly in the second half of 2020.
Board members noted that they cannot get many details due to privacy laws. But Ronald Meuser Jr., an attorney who says he represents about 200 police and firefighters who have filed workers’ compensation claims since Floyd’s murder, has noted the vast majority left their jobs because of a disability, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder.
Given the current pace of regulations, the total cost to Minneapolis taxpayers could run into the tens of millions. In June, the average settlement cost $ 169,000, bringing the approximate cost of Meuser’s 200 claims to about $ 34 million.
The city is self-insured, which means that the departments pay premiums into a fund to cover lawsuits and workers’ claims; Minneapolis taxpayers are finally footing the bill.
Council member Cam Gordon asked why the council committee had received so little information on the bylaws it was asked to approve on Thursday. He said he would like a comprehensive report so that the board can better understand how the claims compare to past years.
Council chairwoman Lisa Bender has said she doesn’t want the public to think the council is sweeping settlements under the rug, so every time a new batch comes up for approval, she goes over the cost.
“I hope and expect that talking about this financial risk to our city will be part of this year’s budget discussions as well as the conversation we will have about the five-year financial projections,” she said. declared.
The Policy and Government Oversight Committee also approved a three-year, $ 1.8 million contract with Gries Lenhardt Allen to provide workers’ compensation legal services. The city has outsourced industrial accident litigation since the end of 2018.
In April, the city increased Gries Lenhardt Allen’s contract by $ 600,000 to deal with “the significant and unforeseen increase in complex claims for PTSD in the second half of 2020”.