The family of Carol Gotbaum, who died two years ago in an airport security holding cell, will receive just $250,000 from the city of Phoenix under settlement terms awaiting court approval.
Gotbaum's three children (seen with Gotbaum in the above photo) -- through the estate's lawyer, Phoenix's own Mike Manning -- had asked for $8 million originally, but later bumped that down to $5.5 million.
Gotbaum was arrested in the middle of her trip to a Tucson rehab center. The 45-year-old alcoholic missed her connecting flight in Phoenix and proceeded to get sauced at a Sky Harbor bar. Ranting wildly, she was taken into police custody for causing a disturbance and chained alone inside a cell, where she strangled herself accidentally.
Making the story even bigger was the fact that Gotbaum was the wife of New York City Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum's stepson.
Phoenix police say the decision to settle was made by the city's insurance carrier. According to a statement released this morning:
The Police Department and the City of Phoenix stand by the position we have taken all along that our officers acted appropriately and within policy.
The insurance company for the City of Phoenix settled the original notice of claim that asked for 8 million dollars, and subsequently reduced to 5.5 million dollars for the lawsuit, for $250,000, a fraction of the original amount.
The insurance carrier reports it has spent approximately $500,000 dollars so far in this case. They anticipated spending another $750,000 to litigate. It was a financial decision by the insurance carrier to settle in order to minimize further costs. According to the City of Phoenix, payment will exclusively be made by ACE Property and Casualty Insurance Company, and no monies from the City of Phoenix, its citizens, or its employees will be used to fund this settlement.
Police added, "Ms. Gotbaum's death had and continues to have a profound effect upon all the officers who were involved."
Of everyone involved, though, it's likely that no one is second-guessing himself more than Gotbaum's husband, Noah. Knowing she was suicidal, addicted to booze, and an emotional wreck, he didn't accompany her to the Arizona rehab center on the other side of the country. Allowed to fend for herself in an airport full of bars, she made a predictable decision to drink.
UPDATE 2:45 p.m.: We just received a statement to the media from Noah Gotbaum. Here's the complete text:
Statement from Noah E. Gotbaum
My family and I have agreed to settle our lawsuit against the City of Phoenix but this does not represent an end to our deep concern about how the law enforcement community and we as a society treat people who suffer from issues of alcoholism, mental illness and emotional distress. We need to have that dialogue.
For many personal reasons, however, I have concluded that continuing to pursue litigation is not in my children's best interests--nor of Carol's memory.
Everyone who ever met Carol knew her as the most special and sensitive person. Sadly, tragically, in a moment of emotional distress, Carol was treated like a criminal rather than a person in emotional distress that she was. This should be a matter of concern to all of us.
I know that we as a community ALL can do better. Ella, Nathaniel, Tobias and I are determined and hopeful that Carol's death, while forever a horrible tragedy for us, and for her wonderful and supportive group of family and friends, will not have been in vain.
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