(CN) - The vast majority of rescue workers who sued New York City after their health deteriorated from contact with toxic debris at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 have accepted a settlement offer of more than $625 million.
Of the 10,563 workers suing the city and its contractors through Worby Groner Edelman and Napoli Bern Ripka, 95.1 percent, or 10,043, accepted the settlement package, according to a report from the workers' lawyers.
Because of an agreement the lawyers reached with WTC Captive Insurance, the settlement needed approval from at least 95 percent of the plaintiffs by last week's deadline to become effective.
Plaintiffs were broken up into four tiers, and each tier accepted the settlement at a higher rate depending on severity of injury, according to the report. For plaintiffs with the most severe injuries, 98.1 percent accepted the settlement.
The rescue workers' lawyers say that the settlement is worth between $625 and $712.5 million, depending on how many plaintiffs opt in. They pointed out that there have been five previous settlements for more than $100 million, including agreements with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and contractors that worked with WTC debris.
Alvin Hellerstein, a federal judge in Manhattan, called the settlement "fair and reasonable," according to the attorneys for the plaintiffs. Hellerstein had rejected a smaller settlement in March, saying that the victims were not getting enough money.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also called the settlement fair in a statement. He added that it is a boon to the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which is being considered in Congress.
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