Legal claims against the city of Mesa, Az., reached a five-year high last year, with grievances against police and construction topping the list. An Arizona Republic analysis found that the claims with the highest settlement amounts dealt with intersection accidents, employment discrimination, allegations involving Mesa police, negligence and poor maintenance.
Claims involving Mesa police made up nearly 50 percent of the $6.4 million in taxpayer funds the city paid. The city must be responsive but answer to taxpayers, too. “To me, they are our clients; at the same time they’re suing us,” City Attorney Debbie Spinner said.
The city’s insurance includes a $3 million deductible to cover an increasingly lawsuit-prone public and keep the cost of premiums down after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The supply of insurers shrank after the attacks. Lloyd’s of London faced losses of $8 billion. It left some companies loath to contract with cities because of City Hall’s public exposure. “The insurance market is a very fickle place,” said one expert. “You don’t make friends there. And governments are a scary place (for insurers). They’d rather write General Electric than the city of Mesa.”