Published February 05, 2012
NEW YORK – Ailing Ground Zero responders are finally getting their last checks from a settlement with the city, but many are crestfallen that the payments are less than touted when they took the deal.
"We didn't get what they told us we were going to get," one put it.
One main reason for the lower-than-expected payouts -- the dollar value of each point awarded workers for the type and severity of their illnesses was just recently set at $7.36, a figure based on the money to be divvied up. That is below the $7.50 to $9.19 range first estimated.
"Obviously, it was a big mistake. They miscalculated the total number of points awarded, so the value dropped significantly," a lawyer in the case said.
More than a year ago, 95 percent of 10,000 cops, firefighters, hard hats and other Ground Zero workers accepted the city's $680 million offer. The sickest are now getting the final 60 percent of their payments. The WTC Captive Insurance Co., which manages the city's 9/11 settlement funds, did not immediately comment.
Adding to the disappointment, the payments have been slashed by tens of thousands of dollars in unexplained legal expenses deducted from the awards, in addition to a 25 percent attorneys' fee. The expenses are listed in lump sums, with no itemized list.
In one case, a former NYPD detective with asthma and other ailments signed on to the settlement in September 2010 after the main law firms in the litigation, Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, estimated his city payout at $532,826 to $650,267.
His city award came to $115,480 -- but after fees, he received $79,292. The huge reduction stemmed from a rejected claim filed on his behalf, while more than $9,750 in legal costs, in addition to the 25 percent fee, ate into his entitlement.
Paul Napoli, a partner in the firm claiming the costs, would not give a breakdown. His spokeswoman said the court-appointed Garretson Resolution Group, based in Cincinnati, approved all expenses allowed by the judge.