Families of September 11th victims have settled 92 lawsuits for $500 million. The settlements came during the mediation of 95 lawsuits. The mediation gave the families an opportunity to let the airlines know what they had been through on and after September 11th. It appears from media reports that the families let the airline representative know how “extraordinary their loved ones were,” and “how angry they were at what had happened.” Sheila Birnbaum, the court-appointed mediator, says the face-to-face encounters between individual families and airline or airline safety representatives were crucial to resolving at least 30 of the lawsuits brought on behalf of the victims.
Ninety-seven percent of the families of those killed in planes at the World Trade Center or at the Pentagon on September 11th chose to receive payments from a special fund established by Congress. The fund distributed more than $7 billion to over 5,000 survivors. But 95 lawsuits on behalf of 96 victims were filed by those who refused to accept payment from the fund. The suits were filed on behalf of families whose loved ones were killed on planes that were hijacked by the terrorists. These three cases that weren’t settled at mediation remain pending and no trial date has been set. In a report filed in Manhattan federal court, the mediator said that by the spring of 2006 about 70 cases remained unsettled. She said:
It became apparent that an obstacle to settling many cases was a desire by families to tell the story of their loss or express feelings to the court or to tell the same to a representative of the airlines and to receive expressions of condolences from the airlines.
During a period of months the mediation sessions, lasting from minutes to hours, were arranged between individual families and the airlines at law firms in Washington, New York City and Boston. The meetings were described as being “very emotional” involving “moving experiences.” After the meetings, many of the families were able to begin discussing compensation for their losses and as a result these settlements eventually resulted.
Source: Associated Press
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