Thursday, April 15, 2010

City Turns to Circuit Court to Invalidate Judge Hellerstein's Role in WTC Litigation

The City has filed a notice of appeal from Judge Hellerstein's  finding against the settlement in the WTC Disaster Site litigation and his role in policing the settlement.  The NY Law Journal has the story.  Mark Hamblett reports:

Attorneys for the city and its contractors, led by James Tyrrell Jr. of Patton Boggs, claim that Judge Hellerstein does not have the power to interfere with a settlement reached among private parties, although the money for the settlement will come from the $1.1 billion WTC Captive Insurance Co. established with federal funds to help meet insurance costs stemming from the response and cleanup of Ground Zero.\

...

Plaintiffs liaison counsel Paul Napoli of Worby Groner & Napoli Bern, whose interests are for once aligned with those of the city's, said he would weigh in at the circuit either as a respondent or with an amicus brief backing the appeal.

The sides are meeting with the experts in the case but haven't reached a new settlement so far. It appears the sticking point is future claims:

But the two sides have made no progress on the amount of money to be paid in the settlement, with the city, its major contractors and WTC Captive insisting that any more money paid to the plaintiffs today would jeopardize recovery for people who contract illnesses in the future.

Is the filing of the notice of appeal just posturing or is there really an issue here? It seems to me, if the lawyers want to settle the cases individually then they can still do it. But once they decide they want the judge's blessing on an aggregate settlement, well, then they should expect the judge to weigh in and be more than a rubber stamp.  If futures are really the issue, they ought to raise that before the judge.

ADL

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/mass_tort_litigation/2010/04/city-turns-to-circuit-court-to-invalidate-judge-hellersteins-role-in-wtc-litigation.html

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