World Trade Center Settlement Approved

Sufficient <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/world_trade_center_emergency_workers">World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers have accepted a massive settlement of claims alleging health problems from the post-9/11 response and clean-up at the site of New York City’s terrorist attacks in 2001 said Law.com.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers were able to sign on more than the mandated 95 percent of their clients in the World Trade Center Litigation. In total, said Law.com, 10,043 of 10,563 eligible plaintiffs, representing 95.1 percent, signed on to the settlement. The settlement sets four tiers of eligible plaintiffs which is dependent on injury severity.

Tier 4 plaintiffs, representing those most severely injured, totaled 5,308 of 5,411, or 98.1 percent who opted in, said Law.com citing a report sent to Southern District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein by the firm hired as “allocation neutral” and who will process the claims.

The deal will enable plaintiffs to receive as much as $712.5 million depending on the percentage of those opting in, said Law.com. at last count, the settlement could pay anywhere from $625 million to $712.5 million, depending on how many plaintiffs accept.

We previously wrote that some questioned the fairness of the settlement in terms of those who died from nonlung cancers. According to a prior Associated Press (AP) report, the claims formula appears to work best for those plaintiffs who suffer from respiratory illness and lung cancer. According to the AP, approximately half of those covered either aren’t ill or are suffering from minor issues, but became involved in the lawsuit over fears they will become ill in the future. Plaintiffs claiming fear of becoming ill, but who do not present with an injury that qualifies under the new accord, will receive smaller payouts. Most of the settlement—about 94 percent, said the AP—will go toward the most serious illnesses, such as lung cancer and emphysema, while one quarter will pay legal fees.

Individual settlements will be based on the seriousness of the illness, how much time the plaintiff spend at the WTC site, and other issues including age, health history, and if the illness can be associated with WTC dust, explained the AP.

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 allege that 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.

Meanwhile, wrote Law.com, the first of the payouts is expected within weeks; however, some work is still required because Judge Hellerstein has requested details on how many plaintiffs remain in litigation and who are committed to going to trial individually. Also remaining open are plaintiffs whose whereabouts are unknown or who are no longer interested in pursuing legal action, added Law.com

Judge Hellerstein set February 2 for the next proceedings date, but he is expected to meet with all involved parties prior to that date, said Law.com. Judge Hellerstein is also presiding over claims of some 200 other defendants. Talks continue between plaintiffs and these defendants—“real estate owners, managing companies, contractors, and utility companies,” said Law.com—involved in the cleanup of buildings surrounding the Trade Center site.

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