With the May 16 trial date approaching, lawyers for the city and attorneys for thousands of 9/11 responders who say they got sick or injured after working at Ground Zero are apparently hurrying to reach a settlement. Though attorneys from both sides declined to comment on negotiations, Judge Alvin Hellerstein told the Times that "[t]here have been intensive discussions going on looking to settlements of individual cases and globally of all cases...The parties have been working very hard...The settlement is complicated."
With more than 9,000 plaintiffs filing suit against 90 government agencies and private companies, and hundreds of lawyers submitting tens of millions of pages of court documents, the proceedings—and possible settlements—are bound to be complicated and difficult to broker. "No one seriously thinks that all of these cases would ever be tried," said law professor Richard Nagareda. "Ultimately, everybody understands there's going to be some sort of comprehensive settlement. The question is, what is the price?"
To find that price, lawyers for the plaintiffs and city attorneys are reportedly choosing a small group of case samples to bring to trial "in the hope that the verdicts will guide settlement of the remaining lawsuits," the paper reports. The city, which is covered by an insurance fund of nearly $1 billion financed by FEMA, is arguing its liability is capped at $350 million under federal law, though attorneys for the plaintiffs say the city can pay out more. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said: "We believe there's sufficient coverage to pay all claims with money to spare."