Deadline looms for 9/11 rescue workers' compensation

Thousands of September 11 rescue workers have until today to accept a settlement that could top $US800 million.

The proposed fund would be used for payments to the roughly 10,000 firefighters, health workers, police and other emergency responders who sought legal remedy after falling ill from toxic dust and debris emanating from the destroyed World Trade Center nine years ago.

In June, a legal team representing most of the plaintiffs and New York City attorneys reached a settlement for $US712.5 million. The deal requires approval from 95 percent of the plaintiffs by today in order to be validated.

But legal team leader Paul Napoli said he has since brokered additional agreements with other defendants, bringing the total potential compensation to $US796.45 million.

On Friday, a settlement was announced that could see workers compensated $US28 million for exposure to debris removed and transferred from Ground Zero to Staten Island by marine transportation company Weeks Marine.

Lawyers reached a separate $US47.5 million settlement last month with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the World Trade Center.

Napoli said he and his colleagues "are very happy we have reached agreements with these defendants, following extensive negotiations that lasted several years.''

"Negotiations with remaining defendants have been going on as well and we hope that the latest settlements will encourage those defendants to take this opportunity to resolve the remaining plaintiffs' claims against them in the near future,'' he added in a statement.

In all cases, US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein found the allocation process to be "fair and reasonable.''

(Published by The Australian - November 8, 2010)

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