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article imageFederal judge rejects 9/11 health settlement offer

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 20, 2010 in Business
In a move opening the door for more negotiation and legal fees, a federal judge on Friday rejected a proposed $657m settlement to compensate first responders and workers at the 9/11 ground zero attack site.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein, of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, issued the delay and suggested too much of the settlement money was planned as future payments and that more of it should be used as immediate payments.
In a Reuters article on Friday, the judge also said the $1 billion federal government fund should not be used to pay for lawyer fees. Instead, legal fees should be paid by WTC Captive Insurance Company, a federally financed company created in 2004 after NYC was unable to find private insurance that would cover claims as a result of terrorist attacks.
“I have in mind that people are tired and what I’m going to say is going to suggest some delay,” Hellerstein said. “In my mind this settlement is not enough.”
The preliminary ruling was issued after the judge heard testimony from first responders who described various ongoing health ailments they have suffered since the 9/11 terror attacks.
“I will not preside over a settlement that is based on fear or ignorance,” the judge added. He also suggested workers involved in the proposed settlement are entitled to know the approximate cash value of the award they might receive before deciding whether to participate in the settlement.
A points system is used to determine the settlement amounts each plaintiff is to receive. Under the system, some would receive several thousand dollars while others could receive more than $1 million.
A report in The Guardian states the judge was concerned about the amount of money going to legal fees and that plaintiffs were being pressured into making a hasty decision over settlement amounts. Plaintiffs were being given 90 days to decide on their settlements, far too short a time period for the decision making process, the judge said.
The settlement requires that 95 percent of the approximately 10,000 plaintiffs agree to the settlement.
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