KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A judge has announced firms insuring defendants in lawsuits resulting from the Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalk collapse will provide at lease $151 million for out-of-court settlements.
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Timothy D. O'Leary announced an agreemnet has been reached among attorneys representing six of the insurance companies, the Kansas City Star reported Sunday.
The $151 million pact may affect a lawsuit in U.S. District Court to consolidate the Hyatt-related lawsuits under one class action. That suit claims there may not be enough money to cover all the claims arising from the July 17 disaster.
The Star said a transcript of a Dec. 30 meeting between O'Leary and attorneys for the Hyatt Corp., Hallmark Cards Inc., the Crown Center Redevelopment Corp. and the insurance lawyers -- during which the agreement was made -- reflects a frank discussion on insurance coverage, the potential impact of the class action request and the out-of-court settlements tht have been reached so far.
To date, the largest lump payment has been $600,000, and the total guaranteed payout of all 92 settlements is about $15 million.
'I think I have to be able to determine at this time how much coverage is available for the settlement of these cases,' the judge said.
'And if we do have a commitment here to settle cases on a reasonable basis up to a certain amount, like $150 million, for example, and everybody pretty much agrees that that will dispose of all the cases, then we don't have a limited fund, do we?' O'Leary asked.
O'Leary said he was pleased with the settlements made so far and indicated he was enthusiastic at the prospect of disposing of all lawsuits within a year of the tragedy.
John Townsend, a New York attorney for Hallmark, said he believed Hallmark, Crown Center and Hyatt were far removed from liability for the skywalk collapse but noted their insurance firms were bearing the brunt of settlement costs.
The class action suit is expected to be decided early this week.