City Council approves lawsuit settlements

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Pittsburgh City Council this morning approved payments totaling $113,000 to settle a pair of federal lawsuits and two other legal claims.

Council voted to pay $60,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Dr. Alton Lawson, who claimed police Officer Gary Burns used unnecessary force and arrested him without cause in November 2007.

Dr. Lawson, a gynecologist in Lawrenceville, said in his suit that he was waiting for a parking space to open at Whole Foods in East Liberty when Officer Burns, who was working a detail at the grocery store, ordered him to move along. Dr. Lawson explained that he was waiting for a parking space and pulled into the space when it became available.

When he got out of the car, he said, the officer pushed him onto the roof of his car, punched him in the head and arrested him. Though he offered no struggle, he said, he was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest--charges that later were dropped.

Dr. Lawson's suit claimed violations of his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.

Council also voted to pay $45,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a longtime employee who accused the city of posting his confidential medical information online.

The employee, identified in the bill and lawsuit only as John Doe, said he told officials in December 2007 that he was experiencing depression and fatigue.

The employee's name, medical issues and evaluation were discussed at public meetings of the city's Civil Service Commission in January and February 2008, and the minutes of those meetings were posted on the Internet, the lawsuit said. Even after the employee complained, the lawsuit said, the minutes remained on the Internet in violation of confidentiality provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Council approved settlements of $5,000 to North Side resident Jayda Hayes, who fell into a manhole along Bedford Avenue in the Hill District in August 2007, and $3,400 to Carrick resident Remington S. Sinclair, whose vehicle was damaged by falling tree branches in May.


Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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