Lawyers and city officials are trying to get emergency responders to agree to settlement of money drawn from federal fund
The deal would split $575 million to $657 million among 10,000 police officers, firefighters and other laborers involved in the massive cleanup after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A number of workers have signed up to address U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein on Friday, and the judge has said a select number will get a chance to speak at the hearing.
If Hellerstein OKs the settlement, workers would have three months to accept or reject it. At least 95 percent would have to say yes for it to take effect. The judge is not expected to release his decision immediately.
Hellerstein has indicated that he wants a role in ensuring that the settlement is fair to both sides.
The settlement creates a pool of at least $575 million for sick workers. That amount could rise to as much as $657 million if enough people accept the deal. Injured workers would get a payment in exchange for dropping their suits against New York City and the dozens of construction contractors it hired to handle the cleanup.
Money for the settlement would come from a special insurance entity created by Congress and funded with nearly $1 billion in taxpayer money.
The deal covers a broad list of ailments suspected of being linked to trade center dust, including asthma, chronic coughing and interstitial lung disease, which involves scarring of lung tissue. Some types of cancer are also covered.
The settlement faces hurdles.
Some lawyers representing a small number of plaintiffs have complained that the deal's cash awards won't cover lost wages and could be gobbled up quickly by medical bills.
For the plaintiffs with relatively minor ailments, payments will range from $3,250 to $9,760. William Groner, an attorney on the team that negotiated the settlement, estimated that between 40 percent and 60 percent of the workers will fall into that category.
The rest will divide the remaining millions in the pot, with a handful of the sickest getting $1 million or more. The amount they get will be based on a complicated scoring system that ranks each illness by severity.
Some critics of the settlement have questioned whether plaintiffs will get an accurate estimate of their cash payout in time for them to decide whether to say yes or no to the deal.