No, really. This time, it might not be.
In January 2006, retired New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum was mugged in Washington, D.C.; the muggers hit him over the head with a pipe. When his body was discovered and emergency workers responded, they somehow missed the fact that he had been bashed over the head (Oops!), and decided he was merely drunk. Because of that mistake, every aspect of the response was botched; police failed to investigate the crime right away, and emergency workers and the hospital where they eventually took him failed to immediately treat him for his serious head injury. Two days later, he died.
Last November, his family sued the city and the hospital for $20 million. On Thursday, they settled their lawsuit with the city, for no money (Washington Post):
The family of a slain New York Times journalist yesterday agreed to forgo the potential of millions of dollars in damages in exchange for something that might be harder for the D.C. government to deliver: an overhaul of the emergency medical response system that bungled his care at nearly every step.
David E. Rosenbaum’s family said it will give up a $20 million lawsuit against the city — but only if changes are made within one year.
Under a novel legal settlement, the city agreed to set up a task force to improve the troubled emergency response system and look at issues such as training, communication and supervision. A member of the family will be on the panel.
Although legal experts said the family could have won millions had it pursued the case, Rosenbaum’s brother Marcus said he and other relatives were more interested in making sure that the city enacted measurable changes.
The family hasn’t abandoned the path of litigation entirely; their suit against Howard University Hospital continues. And the family can reinstate the lawsuit against the city if it fails to implement the reforms it has promised within a year.
Interestingly, a search of news coverage about this lawsuit did not reveal even one instance of any of the plaintiffs or their lawyers uttering the immortal mantra, “It’s not about the money.”