Reporting Rich Lamb
NEW YORK (AP/1010 WINS/WCBS 880)– More than 95 percent of workers who sued after being exposed to the toxic dust that blanketed Lower Manhattan after the World Trade Center fell have joined a legal settlement that will pay more than 10,000 of them hundreds of millions of dollars, officials announced Friday.
It means an end to most lawsuits over New York’s failure to provide protective gear to firefighters, police and construction workers who took part in the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero after September 11, 2001, WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb reported.
Thousands sued, claiming that the ash and soot at the site got into their lungs and made them sick. Only 520 of the 10,563 eligible plaintiffs declined to take the offer.
Those 520 people will be not be a part of the settlement and could go on and pursue their own legal cases against the city, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.
For those who accepted the settlement, it will result in the dismissal of their claims filed against the city, Schuck reported.
“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,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
Paul Napoli, a senior partner with the law firm representing most of the workers, called the settlement “the best result, given the uncertainty of protracted litigation.”
The settlement, which has been on the table since the spring, won approval by the thinnest of margins. Under terms of the deal, it would only become effective if at least 95 percent of eligible plaintiffs signed on. It just cleared that hurdle, with 95.1 percent.
The settlement will provide at least $625 million to the workers, although related deals with other defendants, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, could boost that total to more than $725 million.
Workers could have qualified for an even larger total, topping $800 million, if enough workers had accepted the offer.
The deadline to opt in to the deal was Tuesday. The results were withheld from the media and public for three days while lawyers loaded documents into a computer system and verified the numbers.
(TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)