Propsed WTC Settlement in QuestionMar 22, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP
A proposed $657 million settlement in thousands of World Trade Center emergency responder lawsuits will need to undergo some serious changes before the judge overseeing it will agree to approve it.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein held a hearing during which he heard from 10 injured and sick Ground Zero workers. According to CNN, after hearing differing views from the workers, the judge outlined changes he wanted to see before he would agree to approve any settlement, and ordered both sides to resume negotiations.
The judge said legal fees must be lowered and paid by WTC Captive Insurance, and individual plaintiffs must be given a proposed dollar amount before being asked to opt in or out of the proposal. The Judge also said would be the one to supervise how plaintiffs’ claims are categorized. He also said more money should be set aside for people who later develop cancer that may be linked to ground zero toxins.
Since 2003, upwards of 10,000 firefighters, police officers, construction workers and emergency responders have filed lawsuits against 90 defendants over illnesses they say were caused by exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They alleged the defendants, including New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and construction companies, failed to adequately supervise and protect them with safety equipment during rescue and clean-up efforts.
The settlement proposed earlier this month would have paid individual plaintiffs anywhere from $3,200 to $2 million, before attorney fees, in exchange for dropping their suits. Payouts for the settlement would come from WTC Captive Insurance, an entity created with $1 billion federal grant that provides insurance coverage to the City of New York and its debris-removal contractors.
It remains to be seen if Judge Hellerstein's directive will be enough to scuttle the proposed settlement entirely. Another hearing is scheduled for April 12.