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New York City on Tuesday agreed to pay $3 million to the parents of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from Guinea who was killed in a hail of police gunfire in 1999. Anthony H. Gair of Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman & MacKauf, who represented Diallo’s mother, Kadiatou Diallo, said the settlement is “most definitely the highest in New York” under the state’s wrongful-death statute for a person in circumstances analogous to Diallo’s. Diallo was single, not supporting any dependents and earning less than $10,000 at the time of his fatal encounter with four undercover police officers in front of his Bronx apartment shortly before 1 a.m. on Feb. 4, 1999. A more typical settlement for someone killed in those circumstances would be an award of about $275,000, Gair said. Recovery in a state wrongful-death action is limited to the pecuniary losses suffered by the dead person’s heirs. Where death is instantaneous, as it was in the case of Diallo, who was felled by 41 bullets, recovery for pain and suffering is limited. By contrast, Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant who was tortured — and survived having a broken broomstick shoved up his rectum in a Brooklyn precinct house — received an $8.8 million settlement from the city in 2001. The city’s generosity with Diallo’s parents showed that the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg “was willing to make amends and admit responsibility for what happened to Amadou Diallo, unlike the prior administration,” Gair said. In a statement issued Tuesday announcing the settlement, Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo said, “The Mayor, the Police Department and the City deeply regret what occurred and extend their sympathies to the Diallo family.” Though Cardozo declined to elaborate beyond his written statement, Gair noted that the family had asserted a claim for wrongful loss of enjoyment of life under the federal civil rights act in addition to the state wrongful-death claim. There is a split in the federal circuit courts over whether such a damage claim can be asserted under the federal law, Gair added. Acting Justice Stanley B. Green was “instrumental” in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion over the past several months, Gair added. The trial had been scheduled to start in Bronx Supreme Court on March 1. Michael A. Hardy, who often represents the Rev. Al Sharpton and was aligned with the family’s first set of lawyers, said under the law “the city could have paid a lot less.” But, he added, the “city agreed to pay as much as it did to keep the peace and avoid provoking public outrage.” Matthew Gaier, an appeals specialist at Kramer, Dilloff, Livingston & Moore, said that $3 million is “a very, very good number” considering the circumstances. The totality of the circumstances figures into the settlement calculus, he said. “This was not a car accident,” he said, but more akin to the Louima case in its inflammatory circumstances. Johnnie L. Cochran was initially retained by the family to bring the lawsuit. But Diallo’s parents, who had been divorced for 10 years, had very different ideas about how the litigation should be pursued. His mother stayed out of the limelight, while his father, Saikou Amadou Diallo, often appeared at demonstrations protesting the shooting of his son. Ultimately, the mother chose to go with Gair rather than Cochran, who is famed for his flamboyant style, sources said. In contrast, Gair and his firm are known for their understated approach and good relations with city officials. The father, who has separate counsel, was represented by Deveraux Cannick and Omar Mohammedi. The four police officers who shot Diallo — Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss and Richard Murphy — were acquitted of all criminal charges in a trial conducted in Albany in 2000. The officers had contended that Diallo was behaving suspiciously when they spotted him on the stoop of his building. The officers testified that they thought Diallo met the general description of a serial rapist who remained at large. He also said they thought he might be the lookout man for another robber. Rather than complying with their demands, the officers asserted, Diallo ran into the vestibule of his building and pulled what they thought was a gun out of his pocket. Instead, it turned out, he was holding his wallet.

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