Tuesday, September 18, 2007

14 September 11th Suits Settle

The New York Times (by Anemonia Hartocollis) reports today that 14 September 11th suits have settled.  This leaves only 21 of the 96 lawsuits originally filed arising out of the tragedy.  Judge Hellerstein had scheduled the first case of the bellwether trials on damages for next Monday.  Now that these cases are settled, the next one is not scheduled to go to trial until November 5.  You can access the orders on the SDNY website. The article provides some insight into the decision to sue, litigate and/or settle:

Settlement talks continue, and more settlements could result before the first trial ever takes place, Mr. Migliori said. But he said he expected that some families would refuse to settle and insist on a trial because they felt strongly that only a trial would bring the answers they wanted about how terrorists had bypassed security and managed to hijack four planes.

Although the court has barred parties to the settlements from talking about them or revealing how much money they received, Mr. Migliori said they felt vindicated by their decision to forgo the compensation fund.

“I think it’s fair to say that the folks that chose litigation knew they were going to get compensated whether they went into litigation or went into the fund,” he said. “But uniformly it was understood and appreciated that the fund was not going to provide the same level of compensation as litigation.”

According to the article, the settlements came in the wake of Judge Hellerstein's ruling that the cockpit recording from Flight 93 could be played to the jury.  This must have raised the stakes for defendants enough that they decided to offer a settlement plaintiffs could agree to.  In other words, Judge Hellerstein's tactics to encourage settlement by pushing cases to trial - even just a trial on damages - worked.   The discussion on this blog about the motives of the plaintiffs - truth or compensation - is answered somewhat by this article.  It would be interesting to do a mathematical analysis of the ultimate payout received by these plaintiffs to compare it to what they would have received from the fund.  I wonder why the Judge ordered the amounts be kept confidential, and whether there is a time limit on that order.  Perhaps its because the order gives the parties 30 days to reinstate the actions.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/mass_tort_litigation/2007/09/14-september-11.html

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