(CN) – As part of a renegotiated settlement, New York City’s insurer agreed to pay $712.5 million to 10,000 rescue and cleanup workers exposed to harmful toxins at ground zero. The workers’ lawyers also agreed to cap their fees at 25 percent of the settlement amount, instead of the traditional one-third contingency fee, allowing their clients to keep an extra $50 million.
The parties began renegotiating in March, after U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected their original settlement for $575 million to $657 million. He said the initial settlement did not provide enough money for first responders made ill by working at the World Trade Centers site.
When the Twin Towers collapsed from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, workers faced more than 1 million tons of debris nearly 12 stories high, according to a Homeland Security Inspector General report. They toiled for nearly three months near layers of asbestos-laden dust, pulverized concrete, glass fibers and other hazardous materials. The toxic conditions led to cancer, lung disease, heart conditions, asthma, laryngitis, upper digestive injuries and sleep disorders, among other health concerns.
The workers sued the city, claiming it failed to give them adequate protective gear or supervision.
“This settlement ensures guaranteed, immediate and just compensation to the heroic men and women who performed their duties without consideration of the health implications,” Marc J. Bern, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, told The New York Times.
Judge Hellerstein has indicated that the newly negotiated settlement is “fair and reasonable,” according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.