The massive lawsuit regarding the September 11 World Trade Center attack and the 10,000 claimants has settled for the second time. The first settlement, in March of this year, was rejected by District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein who demanded that the plaintiffs’ attorneys lower their legal fees from 33%. The new settlement has a minimum value of $625M with 95% participation by the claimants, and as much as $712.5M if other conditions are met. The original settlement was for $575M to $657M.
As I first reported on May 28th, the legal fees are being cut to 25%. In addition, the insurance company is ponying up an additional $50-55M, that matches the drop in legal fees. In addition, Workers’ Compensation liens will be waived, which also increases the amount of money that plaintiffs will receive.
These are the details of the new settlement:
• Plaintiffs’ attorneys cap fees at 25%, reducing fees by over $50 million
• WTC Captive Insurance Company to pay up to an additional $50 to $55 million
• Certain workers’ compensation liens against settlement recovery will be waived, giving benefit to many plaintiffs and ensuring that they will continue to receive future benefits with no reductions
• The most severe asthma claims could receive $800,000 to over $1 million dollars, or more if the individual is found disabled as a result of injury
• Former Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Kenneth Feinberg will serve as Claims Appeal Neutral
• Settlement creates path for other defendants and insurers to follow in settling some claims, facilitating recovery of significant additional compensation
This is a tremendous result for plaintiffs’ counsel – a consortium of firms going by the name of Worby, Groner, Edelman & Napoli. The firm had been infuriated in March when the judge demanded that they lower their fees before he approved the settlement, and the firm in turn demanded to know why they were the only ones to receive that request.
And now it seems that their staunch position that others must contribute has paid off. The winner in all this legal jockeying is clearly the 10,000 claimants.
Ken Feinberg, who had overseen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and who then went on to become the nations executive “pay czar” for bailed out companies, will oversea the claims process.
Claimants will receive as much as $1.5M in the case of death to as little as $3,250 for those that have the fear of future injury but have not shown symptoms. They will also will be enrolled in a special insurance policy through MetLife to provide coverage for certain blood and respiratory cancers diagnosed during the coverage period, paying a benefit of up to $100,000.
A neutral third party will oversee the valuation of each claim, assisted by a panel of independent physicians. The Garretson Firm Resolution Group, an experienced claims administration company, will fill this role with Feinberg acting pro bono to handle any appeals.
The insurance company paying the settlement is the WTC Captive, created with a $1 billion grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to insure the City of New York and its debris removal contractors because in the aftermath of 9/11 the City of New York was unable to procure an adequate amount of liability insurance coverage in the commercial insurance market for the World Trade Center site rescue, recovery and debris removal work.
On 09/11/2001 I was working at the Long Island Jewish Hospital as a Union Shop Steward for Local 79. Soon after the second plane attacked the WTC I on my own free will, left my job at the Long island Jewish Hospital and headed straight for the WTC. When I got to the site, what I saw through the dense smoke totally devastated me, I sank to my knees in total shock. The scene seemed surreal.
I and a group of other construction workers immediately started removing debris as best as we could by hand. I stayed until after night fall. I would have stayed all night, but i was too exhausted and out of concern for my wife, who did not know where I was, I went home.
I returned to the site the following three days, even assisted a couple of civilians that wanted to volunteer, with equipment and entry into the site. I did not go back to the WTC site after Friday 14, 2001 because of what I witnessed. For four days, other construction workers, law enforcement personnel, firemen, and other volunteers like me labored with our hands using long lines of bucket brigades to remove debris while searching for survivors. The only machinery on site for those four days was a front loader that was used to load the trucks. We had a lot of trucks, but only that one front loader. The reason why I did not returned to the site after Friday is because on that one day, I get to the site in the early morning, and lo and behold, there were brand spanking new cranes, excavators, front loaders, generators, etc. etc.
I said to a fellow standing next to me “about time they brought equipment to assist, now it will be a lot easier to find any survivors”. The fellow stated,” Yeah, three f….ng days too late”. At near midday, I found out why all the new equipment was brought in, it was because the president was coming to the site, not necessarily to help with search and rescue but as a “Photo Op”.
I just walked away from the site and never went back.
Now my concern is that with the case near completion, now we are being snookered by the lawyers and possibly by the judge in the case. It is strange that after all the drama back and forth between judge and lawyers, now they are both on the same side. The judge has set up two town meetings to explain to litigants why they should accept the litigation results and instilling fears of retribution be stating that any litigants that refuse the settlement as is and decides to litigate on their own, have no chance of legal regress. That all lawsuits brought in independently will not be heard in any court of law, chances of winning the lottery are better than winning a case, etc., etc. This is the same sentiment expressed by the lawyers napoli, bern, etc. through their website, litigation package, and emails. They try to strongarm litigants into accepting the settlement package they are offering. To me, it all smells of dishonesty.
What gives? what is really going on behind close doors with the judge and lawyers?
I suffer and use medication prescription for Chronic Bronchitis, Acid Reflux, sinus condition, and diagnosed with PTSD among other maladies.All because of my activities at the WTC right after the attack.
The settlement offered to me is a real insult. I feel victimized once again as I felt during the attack and on that first day at the site. This time by our legal system and legal counsel. There ought to be a law against that type of abuse.
I live in Virginia and can not attend these Town Hall Meetings sponsored by the lawyers and conducted by the judge in the litigation case. Can you please inform on the going ons at this meetings.
Is there some sort of web site, blog or email list strictly for WTC volunteers. I would like to share my experiences and hear from others in my situation.
William P Nater
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