Man receives $0 9/11 settlement check

NEW YORK, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- A cancer-stricken Ground Zero cleanup worker in New York City says he received a settlement check for zero dollars after liens and law firm costs were deducted.

The law firm that represents Edgar Galvis says it has acted properly by deducting money to repay the liens and that he will be getting further reimbursement from another settlement.


Galvis, 51, who suffered sinus problems, had trouble sleeping and later developed throat cancer after months of clearing dust and rubble from Merrill Lynch offices at the World Trade Center towers destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, received a settlement check cut down to $0 by various expenses and liens, including workers compensation benefits he had received,

In May 2005, Galvis was given the business card for the law firm Worby, Groner, Edelman & Napoli Bern by a friend. A representative from the firm visited his Queens borough home.


Galvis said he had been under the impression he would receive a substantial payout, the New York Post reported Monday.

"The man told me that more than likely I will get sick and I would get 60 percent of whatever he won," Galvis said. "He even mentioned the words 'millions of dollars.'"

In April 2010, the firm came to Galvis with a settlement offer of $10,000 and recommended he take it, and could expect about $5,000 after expenses and fees, the Post said. Galvis decided to settle.

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When Galvis got his check in the mail, he was excited, as he is jobless and $30,000 in debt. However, the law firm had taken out $2,579 for legal expenses, a 33.3 percent fee of $2,124, a $352 fee to the lawyer who referred him and $4,950 was withheld for "liens," leaving Galvis with nothing from the settlement with Merrill Lynch.

"I have hit rock bottom," said Galvis. "I was expecting a check, and you can imagine how I felt when I opened it. I couldn't believe it. I thought it was a joke."

Other clients of the Napoli Bern firm have been voicing complaints after only receiving 40 percent of their total awards, saying they feel duped, the Post said.


"I think they are taking advantage of the ignorance of people such as myself," Galvis said.

Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern responds, however, that the law firm was bound by law to pay statutory liens out of Galvis' settlement funds, and acted properly.

Galvis, the firm said in a statement, "has received tens of thousands of dollars in WTC settlements and ... is set to receive tens of thousands more now that review of his claim by the Allocation Neutral is complete and has been approved."

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Galvis, the firm continued, "like all claimants, received a detailed expense statement that he acknowledged by signature on April 12, 2010."

"He also met with us in our office on at least two occasions and all of these expenses, as well as the liens, were carefully explained to him," the firm said.

"The reason this lien payment encompassed the balance of Mr. Galvin's Merrill settlement check is because lien payments must be paid back first, before the claimant receives cash for the balance of the settlement."

The firm said Galvis will ultimately receive funds from an additional settlement with the city.

"Unfortunately, while we would like to turn over all the money our firm receives to Mr. Galvis, the state law requires us to pay these monies to those who already advanced the money for his claims," said Paul Napoli of the law firm. "It is only in the last week that the Allocation Neutral has approved his 'Tier 4' determination notice, which will result in payment of his WTC Captive Tier 4 claim -- including payment for his cancer diagnosis."


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