"I intend to approve this settlement and I now do so as a fair, adequate, and reasonable settlement reflecting hard work and a concern for fairness by all parties," U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said. "It is fair in amount and fair in procedures."
The settlement involves the WTC Captive Insurance Co., the city of New York, the contractors the city hired, their subcontractors, attorneys and more than 10,000 plaintiffs alleging injuries from the World Trade Center site rescue, recovery and debris removal operations.
Christine LaSala, president and chief executive officer of WTC Captive, the not-for-profit insurance company enabled by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said she was "very pleased" with the judge's ruling.
"This settlement provides plaintiffs with closure and certainty, while also reserving some funds for future claims," LaSala said. "We believe it is the best path forward for these plaintiffs, as their only other option right now is to proceed to lengthy and costly litigation with an uncertain outcome."
Hellerstein heard from both those who praised and criticized the settlement.
Candace Baker, a former New York City police officer on disability for breast cancer, asked that cancers like hers be treated the same as other types, despite a lack of evidence proving causation.
"I ask that cancers be treated the same. I ask the point system, with relation to illness, be adjusted to reflect what we endured," she said.
Under the settlement, qualifying plaintiffs will be enrolled in a special insurance policy through MetLife to provide coverage for certain blood and respiratory cancers diagnosed during the coverage period, paying a benefit of up to $100,000.
The settlement will cost the taxpayer-funded WTC Captive up to $712.5 million. Plaintiffs will have 90 days to opt into the settlement, unless that period is extended.