9/11 tentative deal for rescue workers reached
$650M pact for police, firefighters in cleanup still needs approval
A $650-million US tentative deal has been reached between lawyers for the City of New York and thousands of emergency workers claiming cleanup from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made them sick.
The $657 million coming out of a federal emergency insurance fund would be dispersed to police officers, firefighters and other workers involved in the cleanup.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, who must approve the settlement, said at a hearing Friday that he needed time to ensure the deal is "fair, appropriate and just to all affected."
Hellerstein said he would hold another hearing March 19 to let people weigh in on the settlement.
In the years following the attacks, many have complained about respiratory problems like asthma and other more serious health-related diseases including cancer.
Marc Bern, a senior partner with the law firm Worby, Groner, Edelman&Napoli, Bern LLP, which negotiated the deal, said it was "a good settlement.
"We are gratified that these heroic men and women who performed their duties without consideration of the health implications will finally receive just compensation for their pain and suffering, lost wages, medical and other expenses, as the U.S. Congress intended when it appropriated this money," he said in a statement.
Thousands of police officers, firefighters and construction workers had filed lawsuits against the city, claiming they had been sent to ground zero without proper protective equipment.
Carpenter James Nolan, of Yonkers, N.Y., said he helped recover bodies and build ramps for firehoses at the site and then developed lung and leg problems, for which he takes six medications.
He said the city knew the air was dirty so he sued six years ago and now he's happy the case is ending.
"We've had to fight for what we deserve," Nolan, 45, told The Associated Press. "I'm glad it's coming to an end where I can feel a little comfortable if I pass away my wife and kids can get something."
Under the deal, those people would receive anywhere between a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million, depending on the severity of their illness. Their cases would go before an adjudicator.
A special insurance fund will also be set up to cover workers who develop cancer in the future.
The compensation package still has to be approved by the judge and 95 per cent of the plaintiffs in the case, which totals more than 10,000 people.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are writing to all their clients urging them to vote in favour of the proposal. They are seeking 100 per cent approval because it's the only way they can access the full amount of money.
If only 95 per cent vote in approval, the compensation figure drops by about $80 million.
With files from The Associated Press