Proposed Ground Zero Emergency Worker Settlement Needs Changes, Judge Says

The federal judge overseeing <"">World Trade Center emergency responder lawsuits in New York is not satisfied with a $657 million settlement proposed earlier this month. According to a report on CNN, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said he will not approve the settlement until some changes are made.

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.

The settlement had to be approved by at least 95 percent of the plaintiffs in order to take effect. The plaintiffs had been given 90 days to approve or reject the settlement.

On Friday, Judge 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.

Before he would be willing to approve a settlement, Judge Hellerstein said legal fees must be lowered and paid by WTC Captive, 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.

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