Aurora insurance not enough for $15M McClain settlement

Problem Solvers

AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — The City of Aurora will have to pull from its general fund to pay for the $15 million settlement it is about to finalize with the family of Elijah McClain.

The city’s insurance plan will only pay up to $10 million for police-related liability claims that occurred in 2019, according to city spokesperson Ryan Luby.

“Their willingness to go over that limit, I think, says something,” said Ian Farrell, a law professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. “There are financial consequences for not having reform, and maybe that will motivate people who haven’t previously been motivated by saving lives.”

McClain died in 2019 after three Aurora police officers confronted him while he was walking home from the store and after paramedics injected him with ketamine.

The settlement is not yet finalized, but the agreement, in principle, was established over the summer.

For a police-related claim that would have occurred in 2021, the liability coverage would cover $8 million.

“Claims that exceed the liability coverage limit on any policy would be paid out of the city’s General Fund in an amount that depends on which year an incident occurred,” Luby said in an email to the Problem Solvers.

Before the city’s liability insurance kicks in, the city must also first pay a self-insured retention amount, which works similarly to an insurance deductible.

The SIR amount, which comes from the city’s risk management fund, has changed several times since 2018, when it was $750,000, Luby said.

He said the fees changed to $1 million in 2020 and $3 million in 2021.

McClain settlement more than double all other Aurora payouts since 2010

Since 2010, Aurora has paid a combined $7.4 million for other wrongful death and excessive force-related settlements.

The largest settlement, in 2015, went to the estate of Naeschylus Vinzant, according to city records, for $2.6 million. The unarmed Black man was shot and killed by a police officer.

In 2018, the city paid $1.5 million to the estate of Richard Black after a police officer shot and killed him.

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