After a seven-year dispute, the heroic 9/11 Ground Zero workers accepted a settlement. Over 10,000 workers sued New York City over health damages after the 9/11 cleanup and recovery efforts from the World Trade Center attack. The payouts are expected to total a minimum of $625 million.
In March, United States District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein threw out a smaller settlement, indicating the plaintiffs deserved more and lawyers were getting too much.
To reach the current settlement, a 95 percent approval was required. The New York Times reports on Tuesday night, 95.1 percent of the 10,563 workers accepted the terms of the settlement in accordance with documents filed Friday.
The lawsuit involved workers experiencing respiratory and other illnesses after working in the World Trade Center ruins. Workers including police officers and firefighters disputed the city failed to provide proper protective equipment and supervision.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg stated, “This settlement is a fair and just resolution of these claims, protecting those who came to the aid of this city when we needed it most. We will continue our commitment to treatment and monitoring of those who were present at Ground Zero.”
Individual payments under the settlement range from $3,250 to upwards of $1.8 million with four tieers of severity. More than half the plaintiff fall into the fourth tier of most severely injured.
Certain injuries such as particular types of cancer were not compensated or were compensated at lower amounts than respiratory ailments. Many plaintiffs grew weary and wanted compensation after years of illness.
Retired firefighter Kenny Specht, currently combating thyroid cancer, said in a letter, “I am not sure that holding out for a better offer will ever be something that is attainable.”
As of the deadline, 520 plaintiffs did not respond or opted out. Lawyers’ free were reduced to 25 percent from one-third.
James E. Tyrrell, Jr., chief lawyer for the city, stated on Friday, “The city and its contractors have an array of powerful defenses to these claims and do not admit any liability.”
CNN reports Marc Berns, attorney for the 9/11 plaintiffs, said, “It’s a fantastic deal for everybody. Is it perfect? No. Is there a perfect deal? No. But this is as good a deal as you’re going to get.”
John Walcott, former NYC Police Department Detective with leukemia, showed less enthusiasm as he rejected the settlement, saying, “There’s too much risk and no guarantees.”
Currently the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act is pending. If passed, the bill would give $7.4 billion in medical coverage and aid to Ground Zero workers and survivors who were exposed to toxic substances after the attack.