NYC reaches $712.5 million settlement with WTC cleanup workers

New York City reached a settlement June 10 with the 10,000 rescue and cleanup workers who became sick or injured from responding to the 9-11 attacks. The agreement follows two failed settlement attempts between the parties. The city’s insurer, WTC Captive Insurance Company, has agreed to pay the plaintiffs $712.5 million, up from its previous offers of $575 million and $657.5 million. Also, the plaintiffs’ lawyers will reduce their legal fees from 33.33% to a maximum of 25%, giving their clients an extra $50 million.

The most severe injuries, most of which are asthma-related, could garner more than $1 million in compensation for a client. WTC Captive President and CEO Christine LaSala said she was pleased with the settlement:

This settlement gives the plaintiffs immediate, fair and reasonable compensation, certainty and closure after years of protracted and costly litigation that will continue without this agreement. This settlement establishes objective criteria, based upon accepted medical standards, to assess the type and severity of each illness alleged in order to achieve a fair value for each claim.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York signed off on the legal settlement and immediately urged plaintiffs to take the deal. The agreement allows the workers 90 days to decide to whether to opt in to the settlement. In order for the settlement to be effective, it must be accepted by 95% of the 10,000 workers.

Hellerstein rejected a proposed settlement in March, citing an unfairness of claim amounts and the over-complicated process to determine compensation. Hellerstein also said that attorney’s fees should be limited and paid by the WTC Captive Insurance Company, rather than by the claimants. WTC Captive is a nonprofit company created by Public Law 108-7 with $1 billion in FEMA funding to compensate injured workers involved in the Ground Zero rescue and cleanup efforts. In 2007, the City of New York agreed to enter into settlement negotiations over a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 9,000 emergency and cleanup workers who may have inhaled toxic dust at WTC site, which Hellerstein allowed to proceed. The plaintiffs claim that they were not properly equipped or trained to perform their tasks.

From Jurist, June 10. Used with permission.

See our last posts on 9-11 and its legacy in New York City.

See also our last post and our special feature on 9-11 ongoing health toll.

  1. Ground Zero workers screwed again

    The Republicans, who shamelessly milked 9-11 for war propaganda for years, screw over those they so recently lionized as heroes. From YourNabe, NYC, Aug. 5:

    The defeat of a federal bill last week that would have provided billions of dollars in health care for those sickened by toxins released by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001, was a "disgraceful" move by politicians who have turned their backs on those who did not give a second thought about risking their lives to help, former St. John's Hospital paramedic and Sept. 11 responder Marvin Bethea said.

    "It's a shame these elected officials stood on their soap boxes and said they were going to do what was right after Sept. 11 and now it’s back to politics as usual," said Bethea, who lived in Fresh Meadows for 25 years before recently moving to Long Island.

    Queens and city officials also slammed members of the U.S. House of Representatives for defeating the bill last Thursday.

    The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act failed by a vote of 255-159 last Thursday. Twelve Republicans and 243 Democrats voted for the act that proposed giving as much as $7.4 billion to people who were exposed to Ground Zero toxins, including first responders, firefighters, rescue workers, police officers, EMTs, cleanup workers, area residents and schoolchildren.

    Of course, this is nothing new.

  2. Ground Zero workers score victory
    From DNA Info, Feb. 16:

    LOWER MANHATTAN — Hundreds of 9/11 first responders could receive compensation for their cancer treatment after an advisory panel voted Thursday that the disease should be covered under the Zadroga Act.

    The 15-member panel, appointed by Congress to review research and decide which health conditions are linked to toxins at Ground Zero following the Sept. 11 attacks, believes research clearly shows a link between 9/11 exposure and cancer…

    The panel will now draft a list of all the specific cancers they believe ought to be covered. Based on the existing research, the preliminary list discussed at Thursday’s meeting would include blood cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, lung cancer, mesothelioma, multiple myeloma and others, Hughes said.

    The panel, called the World Trade Center Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, will submit a final recommendation on cancer to the federal government within the next couple of weeks…

    If cancer is officially included in the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, those who are sick with cancer and the families of those who have died from the disease will be able to apply to the $2.8 billion 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to cover their medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering.

    “Thank God,” said Louis Ferrara, 40, a Rockland County EMT who developed throat and tongue cancer after working for 72 hours at Ground Zero. “I could pay a lot of my medical bills. I’ve got creditors hounding me day in and day out.”

    Ferrara, who also had a brain tumor removed several years ago, owes tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and one hospital is threatening to sue him if he doesn’t immediately pay $16,000, he said. Doctors recently discovered a problem with his aorta in his heart, and a test Friday morning will determine if he needs even more surgery, Ferrara said.

    “At least I can go into this catheterization tomorrow morning knowing that some compensation is coming,” Ferrara said. “It’s one less aggravation I have to worry about.”