9/11 Workers' Settlement Suit Is Finally Almost Over

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The New York Times is reporting that the 9/11 workers who sued the city over health damages they suffered during Ground Zero rescue and recovery efforts have finally agreed to accept a $625 million settlement from the city after years of negotiations and delays.

Lawyers said they narrowly brought aboard 95.1 percent of the lawsuit's 10,563 plaintiffs Tuesday night. They needed 95 percent of the workers to approve the city's settlement offer before its terms could take effect.

In the suit, rescue and recovery workers blamed the development of respiratory and other illnesses on the city's failure to provide adequate equipment and supervision when the World Trade Center collapsed.

In March, a federal Manhattan judge tossed out a settlement he thought was too small, but encouraged the plaintiffs to accept it after their lawyers negotiated another $125 million by reducing their own piece of the pie.

The Times says individual payments will range from $3,250 to more than $1.8 million based on the severity of the injuries, and that almost 94 percent of the payout will go to the most badly injured plaintiffs (who make up about half of the workers).

In a statement, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the settlement "a fair and just resolution of these claims," and said the city would "continue" its "commitment to treatment and monitoring of those who were present at ground zero."

A lawyer for the plaintiffs called it "the best result, given the uncertainty of protracted litigation."

Congress, meanwhile, is still considering a federal bill that would provide medical care to many Ground Zero workers. That bill was passed by the House in September, but is currently stalled in the Senate.

[shernandez@villagevoice.com]

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