While the murder trial for the ex-police officer charged with killing George Floyd begins, the victim’s family has had a legal win. The family of the man killed when Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck filed a wrongful death lawsuit and settled for $27 million.
Largest Wrongful Death Pre-Trial Settlement
A wrongful death case is a civil lawsuit against an individual or group negligent in someone’s death. In the case of George Floyd, the family sued the city of Minneapolis for the negligent conduct of its police officers. They filed in federal court against the city and the four officers involved in Floyd’s death.
The family’s attorney was able to get a pre-trial settlement of $27 million, the largest in the city’s history. The previous record was set in 2019 when the family of a woman killed by the police received $20 million. In the last 15 years, the city has paid out more than $71 million in settlements over police misconduct.
The Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey both approved the settlement. They also agreed that $500,000 of the total would go to community improvements in the neighborhood where Floyd died.
The Incident That Led to a Wrongful Death Suit
Officers arrested Floyd on May 25, 2020, over an allegation that he used a counterfeit $20 bill. When they arrived on the scene, the officers ordered Floyd out of his car at gunpoint. They physically pulled him from the car.
The officers handcuffed Floyd, which he initially resisted but then became compliant. When they moved to put him in the police car, Floyd panicked and resisted. Officer Chauvin then arrived on the scene. He pulled Floyd from the car, where he remained on the ground but in distress. Chauvin attempted to restrain him by putting his knee on his neck.
For nearly eight minutes, Chauvin remained kneeling on George Floyd, cutting off airflow. Floyd stated multiple times that he could not breathe and that he thought he was going to die. He eventually died after being taken to the hospital.
Settlement Sends a Message
Such a large settlement for wrongful death is more than just compensation for the family of George Floyd. They hope it signals a change in policing across the country. They wanted to send a message that police reform is necessary and hope the settlement will be a push to begin those changes.
In Minneapolis, changes are already underway. The family’s legal team has worked with the city to institute important change. These include policies that prevent the use of excessive force and a panel for reviewing instances of force. They also hope to establish a procedure to weed out problematic officers early in their careers.
George Floyd’s death triggered nationwide protests and a surge in the Black Lives Matter movement. For the family, the loss was personal. While the criminal trial is as yet unresolved, the family has some form of justice in winning a wrongful death civil lawsuit.