Thursday, December 14, 2006
Very interesting op-ed in the New York Times -- A Fair Deal for 9/11’s Injured, by Kenneth Feinberg, who was the special master who administered the 9/11 Fund. Mr. Feinberg notes that thousands of 9/11-related claims are pending in the courts, relating to those who were diagnosed with 9/11 injuries after the 9/11 Fund deadline and also potentially tens of thousands of claims in the future from those who suffered toxic exposures during the clean-up after 9/11. Mr. Feinberg advocates creating a new fund for these individuals, utilizing leftover funds from the 9/11 Fund and additional contributions from defendants in the litigation:
More than $1 billion in public funds is currently available for distribution as part of the initial federal appropriation earmarked for New York City’s 9/11 recovery. If you add financial contributions from those contractors and others involved in the litigation, and supplement that with funds from various city charities, a total of at least $1.5 billion is available to settle the pending lawsuits — more than sufficient to pay all eligible claims, as well as lawyers’ fees and costs.
Eligibility for compensation under the settlement would require proof that the victim was in the general proximity of the World Trade Center during the cleanup period. Each claimant would also supply medical documentation of an illness caused by exposure to harmful air at the site (the medical criteria would be negotiated as part of the settlement to avoid a rush of spurious claims).
New York City and the other defendants would not admit they were at fault for these injuries; they would merely agree to use available funds to pay all documented claims. (It remains an open question whether the defendants are legally responsible for such injuries.) Up to half of this money should be set aside to pay for claims stemming from future diagnoses of injuries caused by breathing the toxic air.