Though a settlement has been awarded to the 9/11 search and rescue workers suffering illnesses from the toxic rubble of the World Trade Centers, there remain obstacles to the payout. “Officials cast the settlement as righting a historic wrong on Friday and predicted that it would assure speedy and just compensation to the workers, who have waited more than six years for a legal resolution. But significant hurdles remain. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, of the United States District Court in Manhattan, has made clear that he intends to play a role in assuring that individuals are compensated fairly. At a hearing on Friday, Judge Hellerstein said he would take a week to review the terms of the agreement and convene again next Friday to give his ‘initial impressions’ and to hear from interested parties, including plaintiffs. He also scheduled a formal ‘fairness hearing’ on the agreement for April 12. Lawyers from both sides have said that the settlement does not require the judge’s approval. But Judge Hellerstein warned them in January that in the event of a settlement, he would hold hearings to determine whether the settlement treated individual 9/11 workers fairly. On Friday he also cautioned them that he planned to review the fees going to the plaintiffs’ lawyers and would reserve the right to reduce them as he has done in some other cases, to as low as 15 percent. This means the lawyers, who stood to collect a third of the settlement under agreements with their clients, could see their anticipated rewards more than halved.”
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