9/11 rescue workers agree to settlement over injuries

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[JURIST] More than 9,000 workers who took part in the 9/11 [JURIST news archive] rescue and cleanup efforts approved a negotiated settlement with the city of New York Friday in a lawsuit over their injuries. The parties relayed [settlement document; press release] to Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] that 95.1 percent of the 10,043 eligible plaintiffs opted in to the settlement, barely reaching the 95 percent threshold. The plaintiffs, represented by Paul Napoli and his law firm [firm website], had faced a Tuesday deadline to approve the settlement, which leads to a total payout of at least $625 million. Each individual plaintiff will receive between $3,250 and $1.8 million [NYT report], depending on the extend of their injuries and illnesses. The settlement divides the plaintiffs into four tiers depending on their severity of their injuries. Over 98 percent of tier-four plaintiffs, with the worst injuries, opted in to the negotiated settlement. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they were unsure whether late filed opt-in papers will be accepted by the court.

The settlement should bring some relief to the plaintiffs after seven years of litigation. Hellerstein had encouraged [WSJ report] the plaintiffs to accept the $712.5 million settlement agreement that was approved [JURIST reports] last June. Hellerstein approved this settlement after lawyers had agreed to reduce their fees from 33.33 percent to 25 percent after throwing out an earlier agreement [JURIST report] in March. In 2007, Hellerstein ruled [JURIST report] that the class action lawsuit filed by cleanup workers against the city and the Port Authority could proceed. The lawsuit was filed [JURIST report] in 2004.

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