On the one hand, I hate to refer to Al Sharpton’s daughter, Dominique Sharpton, as “Sharpton’s Daughter” as she has an identity all her own. We all do.
On the other hand, nobody would be writing about her $95K settlement for her trip and fall case if her name was Jane Jones. The headlines below occurred because she is not only the daughter of someone famous, but a famous person many love to pillory. You’ll notice that it is Papa Sharpton whose name appears in the headlines.
This trip and fall occurred on New York City streets, and it was the City that was the defendant.
I saw the headline in the Post first, then looked around to see what others were writing. Here are a few:
Al Sharpton’s daughter gets $95K settlement for sprained ankle (NY Post)
Al Sharpton’s Daughter Bags $95,000 Settlement for Sprained Ankle (Breitbart)
Al Sharpton’s Daughter Sprains Ankle ‘Real Bad’ On NYC Street, Scores $95,000 In Settlement (Sarah Palin)
Then a few tweets about that sprained ankle. You can find plenty, but this is a sample from “Sheriff” David Clarke:
Now I smelled something about the headlines. And that’s because I’ve litigated plenty against the City of New York and know that it doesn’t give up the taxpayer coin easily. And if the City could make a point by knocking down a high-ish profile case, it would.
So I logged into the court system and pulled up a document to see about that “sprained ankle.” It took all of two minutes to find what I needed. Here’s a bill of particulars that outlines the injuries.
It turns out that the “sprained ankle” was actually ankle surgery (along with a number of torn tendons and ligaments). Now I know that confusing a sprain with surgery isn’t the kind of mistake that I would make, or any of my readers would make, or any family, friend, or random stranger would make.
To make that “mistake” one needs an agenda to distort the news. The Post story had a single line about the surgery buried in the story, but oddly omitted that from the headline.
Neither Breitbart nor Palin — who picked up the story from the local source that being the NY Post — could be bothered with mentioning the surgery. A 95K settlement over a sprained ankle is far more likely to generate outrage and clicks than a story where ankle surgery was needed. Surgery, you might rightly guess, didn’t fit their agenda.
This was not a one-off error for the NY Post, by the way. I covered this case back in 2015 when the Post ran a headline about Kid Sharpton missing a court conference for this matter — a conference that no client ever, ever goes to. It’s a scheduling conference that the lawyers handle. Yet there was the yellow journalism headline, trying to make something out of, quite literally, nothing.
And both stories were written by their regular courthouse reporter Julia Marsh, who certainly knows better after handling the beat for so many years. It’s not like she doesn’t know how to pull documents off the easy-to-use New York State electronic filing system.
This was, near as I can tell, a run-of-the-mill case of the City of New York neglecting its streets and someone inevitably getting hurt while crossing one. When you’re looking out for cars, pedestrians, dogs, bikes, scooters and other distractions, both dynamic and static, it’s easy to miss a pothole. The nature of the distractions may well affect the way a jury apportions liability between plaintiff and defendant.
This 90-second video, for instance, helps to show how a very small, but unexpected, defect will cause huge numbers of people to trip.
To settle this case, as with any other, the City would have done a simple analysis trying to figure out the “value” of the injuries, factored in the extent of their defect and adjusted downward for the plaintiff sharing part of the blame. They would also factor in how a plaintiff appeared — was she a nun or a convicted criminal? And they might, as they no doubt did here, adjust further downward if the plaintiff said dumb things on social media.
The only thing noteworthy to the suit was that some tabloids could figure out a way to create outrage by distorting what happened.