The City government participates extensively in New Yorkers' daily lives. It has built and maintains a vast network of roads, bridges, parks, public buildings, and other public facilities. The City and its agencies provide essential urban services, such as police protection, firefighting, sanitation operations, education through public schools and colleges, and health care through public hospitals. The City also employs over 300,000 people. This provision of facilities, services, and employment (far beyond what any private entity would undertake) exposes the City to wide tort liability.
The Tort Division is the Law Department's largest. It employs over 200 lawyers and almost as many support staff. The Division represents the City and its Department of Education in all tort claims, and the Health and Hospitals Corporation in all tort claims, except medical malpractice actions. It handles an enormous caseload – over 7,000 new suits each year, with another 18,000 pending - through vigorous investigation, zealous defense before State and federal courts, and, when appropriate, settlement.
The Division maintains local offices in all five boroughs. It also has special units, such as the Early Intervention Unit, which seeks to resolve meritorious cases as quickly and economically as possible; the Special Litigation Unit, which handles high-exposure cases, those valued at $2 million or above, project cases such as the ferry crash cases, and unusually controversial matters; the Toxic and Mass Tort Unit, which previously handled cases arising from the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks now handles a broader variety of toxic and mass torts; and the Risk Management Unit, which identifies risks and tries to eliminate accidents before they happen.
What New Attorneys Do (Pre-Trial Units)
A first-year pre-trial attorney in the Tort Division generally spends three to four days a week in court and conducting depositions. Tasks include drafting affirmative and responsive motions; requesting document discovery; preparing discovery responses; making court appearances in both Civil and Supreme Courts for preliminary conferences, compliance conferences, and oral arguments on motions; and conducting depositions. First-year pre-trial attorneys also make appearances in Small Claims Court and negotiate Small Claims Court settlements. They are also responsible for updating the Tort Division’s Intake Database and/or the Law Department's case management system with all activities conducted, summaries of discovery received, and deposition reports. At the end of their first year, pre-trial attorneys participate in an intensive trial training course.
What Summer Interns Do (Pre-Trial Units)
In the Tort pre-trial units, with offices in all five boroughs, summer interns can expect to observe depositions, compliance conferences, preliminary conferences, oral arguments of motions and various settlement conferences (both pre-trial and trial). Interns will draft a variety of litigation related documents, such as affirmative motions, responses to demands for discovery, deposition reports, privilege logs, bills of particulars, and responses to compliance conference stipulations. Where feasible, interns will conduct depositions, including both defending City witnesses and deposing a plaintiff witness. Many interns in Tort will observe portions of trials and some will argue motions in front of arbitrators and/or judges in either Small Claims or Supreme Court. The Division takes both first-year and second-year law students. Interns should be flexible as to borough assignment.
What Summer Interns Do (Special Litigation Unit)
The Special Litigation Unit handles personal injury and property damage cases which either present some novel issue of law or involve potential damages above a certain threshold. Interns in the unit will research and write memoranda of law and research and write motions, such as summary judgment motions, discovery-related motions, and motions in limine for attorneys on trial. Interns will also observe depositions and trials. Some interns may conduct depositions or take testimony at 50-h hearings. The unit takes both first and second-year law students.Read the Law Department's Annual Reports for More Information about the Tort Division