Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Council approves $1 million payment in ‘misplaced file’ lawsuit

New procedures in place
Common Council at Monday’s special meeeting. (Photo by Jim Roberts)

The Peekskill Common Council, by a vote of 6-1 at a special meeting Monday night, Sept. 18, approved settling the lawsuit filed by the victim of a car accident involving an off-duty city police officer.

The city will draw $1 million from its unreserved fund balance to pay David Maldonado for injuries he suffered in September of 2016 when a car driven by former Peekskill police officer Jonathan Mosquera struck another vehicle in Rockland County. The accident killed one pedestrian and injured another pedestrian, Maldonado. Mosquera was late for his midnight shift and was ticketed for speeding.

Peekskill’s attorney Tim Kramer missed a deadline to respond to the lawsuit in March of 2018 because the case file was misplaced in the city’s law department office. A judge granted the city more time to respond and noted the city might not be liable because Mosquera, the city employee involved in the auto accident, was off-duty. However, an appellate court overruled the decision to forgive the city’s delayed response.

In May of 2022, Kramer told a judge he had a verbal agreement from the council to pay a $1 million settlement to end the case.

The Common Council had planned to vote on the settlement at its Sept. 11 regular meeting but that resolution was pulled at the last minute. A special meeting was held Monday to hold the vote, which passed.

The lone no vote was cast by Councilman Ramon Fernandez. Speaking to the Herald this week, Fernandez said he believed more discussion was needed to determine who had responsibility and whether the city should fight the case.

New policies in City Hall

After the vote, City Manager Matt Alexander read a statement that recounted the history of the lawsuit and detailed changes the city will make internally to avoid similar mishandling of legal cases in the future.

City Manager Matt Alexander, left, Corporation Council Tim Kramer and Deputy Clerk Jeanette Moore. Councilman Rob Scott is in the foreground.

“In September of 2016 a terrible car accident involved an off-duty city employee driving his own vehicle and two pedestrians were involved, one severely injured and one killed. Since that time the city has been responding to claims involving this matter,” said Alexander, who became the city manager in March of 2022.

“After a late filing from the city, the court judged in favor of the city. The city followed this with a request for a summary judgment from the court to rule that indeed the city had no liability.

“However, a judgment was made against the city on appeal. Subsequently it was determined that a $1 million settlement would be offered to the party by the city in lieu of a jury trial,” Alexander said.

According to court documents, the city was informed in June of this year that its insurance carrier would not pay a claim in the case. Alexander seemed to suggest that the city could challenge that decision by the city’s insurance company.

“In the best interest of the city it has been determined that this is the best possible settlement given the judgment against us. The city will still review its options as to a potential of sharing of liability with other entities.”

Alexander then outlined changes he’s made to try and avoid similar outcomes.

“It is important to note that the city has already implemented procedural changes as to its processing of claims which will assist us in protecting ourselves in the future,” he said. “City staff are a team of professionals who work together to accomplish work for the city and a good system includes checks and balances to protect all of us in achieving great results for the city.

“Furthermore there will be a mandatory reporting to the comptroller, city manager and counsel regarding the disposition of future claims,” Alexander concluded.

Alexander was preceded as city manager by Andy Stewart, who took the helm in April 2020. Richard Leins was the city manager for four years beginning in 2016.

Herschel Kulefsky, the attorney for Maldonado, did not return a call requesting comment.


About the Contributor
Jim Roberts
Jim Roberts has been in this business for more than 35 years (hard to believe) and still learning every day. A third-generation Peekskill resident, he started as a lowly researcher at the Westchester Business Journal in 1986 and learned how to be a reporter from many veterans in the field. He’s worked in private companies, Connecticut state government and wrote for the Co-op City Times for 10 years before retiring from full-time work in 2019. Roberts wants to contribute to building the Herald into a news website for residents who care about what’s happening in Peekskill.