Attorney: Robinson settlement a calculated decision by city’s insurer

Attorney: Robinson settlement a calculated decision by city’s insurer

A Monona attorney involved in another high-profile Madison police shooting settlement said Thursday the city’s insurer likely decided to settle the Tony Robinson case because a jury trial would have presented too many risks to the city.

Michael Fox, an attorney at Fox & Fox, S.C., was one of the attorneys who represented the family of Paul Heenan, who was shot and killed by Madison police Officer Stephen Heimsness in 2012. The city paid $2.3 million dollars to settle the case ; the Robinson case was settled for $3.35 million Thursday.

“These are not cases you take lightly,” Fox said.

Fox has represented both police officers and those suing them and said cases involving police shootings are difficult to try. He said they require a great deal of evidence and many are often dismissed by a judge before reaching a potential jury trial.

The Robinson lawsuit was not, however, which Fox said made a settlement more likely.

“If it’s good enough to beat summary judgement, it’s likely to settle,” Fox said. “You have to have a pretty strong case to get to that point and if you have a pretty strong case, the insurer comes in and says ‘let’s sit down and talk.'”

Fox said the city of Madison’s insurer likely determined the risk of an even more expensive verdict was too great to proceed to a jury trial, despite the fact that Officer Matt Kenny, who shot Robinson in 2015, and his supporters were hoping for one to further clear his name.

“They assess risk, so they look at the evidence and see what the downside risk is for them and they obviously assessed that downside risk at higher than $3.35 million,” Fox said. “Those kinds of verdicts can get quite large and can exceed $10 million quite easily.”

Fox said, under those circumstances, the city’s insurer would not want to risk leaving the decision in the hands of a jury, even though Kenny was cleared by both Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and a Madison Police Department internal review.

“People saying ‘well, it should go to trial’…a trial could come out either way,” Fox said. “It just simply isn’t uncommon for a police officer to be cleared both criminally and also to be cleared by his own department and also be found liable in a civil case.”

Madison city officials said Thursday they played no role in the decision to come to a settlement; it was entirely the decision of the city’s insurance company, which Fox said is standard procedure among municipalities.