9-11 workers

According to Reuters, a Federal Judge has approved settlement of the claims of 10,000 firefighters, policemen and contractors injured in the 9-11 rescue and clean-up operation for $712 million.  A previous settlement amount of $657 million was rejected by a Federal Judge in March.  The claims were filed against the city and contractors overseeing the work at the World Trade Center site.  Site workers have been dealing with various diseases including lung illnesses, cancers, and psychological problems since the terrorist attack.

The claims fund will be funded by the WTC Captive Insurance Company, a federally financed insurance fund created in 2004 by FEMA.  95 percent of the plaintiffs must opt in to the settlement for the deal to become final.  Plaintiffs have 90 days to approve the plan.  Plaintiffs’ lawyers representing the injured victims have agreed to cap their fees at 25 percent.

The fund will pay up to $1 million for people suffering from the most severe illnesses, such as cancer.  However, most victims of this horrible day still have concerns for the future, like Joseph Lutrario, a former NYPD officer, who has suffered from PTSD, stomach polyps, and esophageal polyps since the attacks.  He was forced to retire as a result of his injuries.  The story quotes Mr. Lutario voicing his concerns about the future.  “This is good news now, but I’m not sure what happens five, 10 years down the line if I get even sicker.”

According to newsday.com, the Airlines involved in the 9/11 tragedy have agreed to settle 92 of the 95 lawsuits pending against the Airlines for a total of $500 million.    The majority of the lawsuits were filed by the families of victims who rejected the settlement offered through the fund established by Congress to compensate victims of the tragedy.

Some of those pursuing the lawsuits felt that justice was not possible for their loved ones who perished that day in the system set up by Congress.  They wanted answers and wanted to be heard.  One father of a victim says he is upset that to date no one has accepted responsibility for the lapses in security by the airlines and aviation security companies in charge that day.

Many of the families asked for meetings with airline representatives.  Special mediations were set up where victim’s families met with mediators and representatives of the airlines.  In these meetings the victims were able to express their feelings to the airlines and receive expressions of condolences at these meetings.  After being allowed to confront those responsible for their loss, the families were able move to the next step in the case, discussing settlement.  Great to see mediation being used in that manner, ie. to settle the case and to give the families a sense of justice.

According to a story on Newsday.com, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has decided the workers’ cases alleging dust disease from the WTC cleanup can proceed against the Port Authority and New York City.  The defendants argued that they were immune from suit.  Contract workers and emergency workers were brought in to clean up the aftermath of the attack.  They were not properly warned of the dangers lurking in the area, included severe dust hazards.  In addition the workers were not given adequate safety protection for the work environment.  For example, some workers were given dust masks, when the environment cleary mandated they be given fresh air masks.

 Workers exposed to the ground zero dust have died from illnesses related to their exposures.  Even more workers have severe illnesses related to their work at ground zero.