The federal government spent more than $4 billion to resolve lawsuits last year, a $1.3 billion increase from spending in 2011, an analysis of government records shows. The 7,000 payments, which are detailed in an obscure database overseen by the Treasury Department known as the Judgment Fund, tell a story of the federal government’s inner workings. 

Senior reporter Jenna Greene takes a close look at where some of the Judgment Fund money went, examining payments for medical malpractice suits, employment law violations, airplane crashes and attorney fees.
Legal payments by cabinet agencies in 2012 were the most in at least six years, though expenditures can vary wildly by agency from year to year. In 2011, for example, the Department of Agriculture requested $698 million from the fund, almost all of it to settle a class action brought by Native American farmers alleging lending discrimination.

A $180 Million Med-Mal Tab
Much of the money was spent to settle cases involving the Department of Veterans Affairs, records show.

Attorney Fees Are an Overlooked Expense
The government paid $86 million in a single case — the epic class action over mismanagement of Indian money.


Crash Settlements Cost the FAA $45M
The negligence settlement was among 23 payments totalling $45 million involving the Federal Aviation Administration.

Federal Workers Settled Claims for $6M
Employee suits cost the feds millions, including a pair of big class action settlements.


CHART: Judgment Fund Payments in 2012 for Cabinet-Level Agencies