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Frivolous lawsuits in New York City

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

New York City has often been referred to as 'sue city' because of frivolous lawsuits.

Tom Stebbins is the Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

"People read about these frivolous lawsuits, you can laugh at them, but you need to know you're paying for them," Stebbins says.

Stebbins' coalition is pushing to reform state laws to cut down on lawsuits. Stebbins says New York City is a big target for frivolous suits.

"We have so many laws on the Books in New York State that really empower frivolous lawsuit," Stebbins says.

Take the case of Queens resident Yasmin Rahman.

Rahman tried to commit suicide in 2001 by jumping in front of a subway train. NYPD officers saved her life. She was 15. Now, 27, she's suing the city for $7 million, claiming the city and the NYPD posted pictures, police reports and hospital records of her failed suicide attempt on a database open to the public. She claims that has prevented her from obtaining a job.

"It still haunts me," Rahman says. "It's too my name and my background reports. When HR looks me up to see if im a good candidate for the position, they use that as a means to say I am not a good fit."

The problem with her case might be that the NYPD says it doesn't keep a medical record database and neither Rahman nor her attorney could provide Fox 5 news with information on how to find the alleged records online.

But Rahman's lawyer, Andrew Schatkin did comment about the $7 million price tag they're suing for.

"This lady has been traumatized by her inability to get employment on this basis," Schatkin says. "I put a large figure in because if I put a small figure in I would only get that small amount. It's not that I'm making an outsized or frankly a lie about it for a better word. Im simply enabling a figure that would get her as much compensation as possible."

The $7 million lawsuit claims Rahmin was prevented from 'obtaining any type of job'. But Fox 5's investigation found that she actually did have a job from 2010 to 2012.

A 220 pound former college football player, a first grade teacher, is suing the city saying he was beat up by his 50 pound student.

PS 330 teacher John Webster says Rodrigo Carpio fractured his ankle, and humiliated him.

Neither Webster, nor the little boy's family would comment to Fox 5 about the case, but Webster did sit down with Fox News Network when he filed his lawsuit last year.

"It's very humiliating. It's very defaming but at the same time you know it's true," Webster says. "But it happened I was not able to pretty much defend myself and if I did I would probably lost both my teaching certification and probably in jail."

In his complaint, Webster claims the school was aware of the "violent propensities of the student involved in the attack." Webster has been on leave from the school without pay since September 2012.

"Does this man have a basis? How is the school responsible for him getting kung fu by a first grader? Why is that the schools responsibility and why are we on the hook as taxpayers to pay for it?" Stebbins asks.

Here's another wild case. Elia Dias, a 400 pound felon sued the city Department of Correction for $1 million saying he suffered 'mental anguish' because the city didn't have prison clothes big enough for him.

"He's going to say his civil rights were violated because they have don't have seven XL but, meanwhile, they took his street clothes and washed them for him every day (BUT) Can you imagine you get someone to wash your clothes everyday and you sue them?" Stebbins asks.

Diaz didn't respond to calls for comment. The case was dropped, but it still clogged up the courts and wasted taxpayer money.

How many of these lawsuits actually proceed in court compared to those that get tossed?

According to a city comptroller audit, the city paid out nearly $750 million in lawsuits last year. Close to half a billion dollars paid out in personal injury and property settlements and judgments.

So, can anything be done to cut back on these lawsuits? City officials have begun fighting, rather than settling many lawsuits and NYC Corporation Counsel, Michael A. Cardozo wrote Fox 5 News that the city must defend itself against legal claims, but that "some plaintiffs may see New York as a 'deep pocket' and try to take advantage of the legal system. But he says, "Make no mistake: if a case is frivolous, the City will protect public dollars by contesting it aggressively."

Rahman and Webster's cases are still pending.

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