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Judge Rejects Settlement in World Trade Center Lawsuit

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 22, 2010 1:05 PM

The World Trade Center lawsuit settlement might not be working out as well as originally contemplated.  Manhattan Federal Court Judge Alvin Hellerstien said on Friday that he rejected the proposed settlement in the World trade Center lawsuit. He stated that the settlement is not enough, includes too large a chunk in attorney fees, and does not provide plaintiffs adequate information to decide whether to opt in or not.

In the proposed settlement, reached earlier this month, several Ground Zero rescue workers heard that they may be entitled to thousands, if not millions, under a $657 million settlement amount.

Under the settlement's terms, ninety-five percent of the plaintiffs would need to accept the settlement by June, in order for it to be in full force.

Judge Hellerstein, in addition to stating that the settlement amount was "not enough," said he was taking "judicial control." He took issue with almost 1/3 of the proposed settlement going to attorneys' fees, and with the lack of information plaintiffs would have before deciding whether to opt in or out.

As the Time quoted him, Judge Hellerstien said, "I will not preside over a settlement based on fear or ignorance." 

Thus, Judge Hellerstein did not approve the settlement and ordered that it be negotiated further, insisting that legal fees be lowered and paid by an insurance fund set up by the city. 

The Judge insisted that individual plaintiffs be given more facts and details, including a proposed dollar amount, before deciding whether or not to accept the terms of the settlement.  

On April 12, there will be a final hearing on the matter. In order to determine eligibility to the amounts, plaintiffs will be required to substantiate their claims, using medical documents and other forms of substantiation proving that they were present at the WTC site for rescue efforts.

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