Judge orders renegotiation of 9/11 settlement

(AP) - A federal judge on Friday rejected amultimillion-dollar legal settlement for ground zero workers whosay they suffered health problems after inhaling the ash and dustleft by the collapse of the World Trade Center.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said the deal tocompensate about 10,000 police officers, firefighters and otherlaborers didn't contain enough money for the workers.

He also said he was concerned too much of the deal would beeaten up by legal fees and that ground zero responders were goingto be pressured into signing on before they knew how much theystood to receive.

The settlement proposal would have given the workers $575million to $657 million, but each person's amount was based on acomplicated point system that would give some workers only a fewthousand dollars while others might qualify for $1 million or more.

Under the terms of the deal, workers were given just 90 days todecide whether they wanted to participate - a time that Hellersteinsuggested was too short to figure out one of the most importantdecisions of their lives.

"I will not preside over a settlement that is based on fear orignorance," he said.

Hellerstein, who presides over all federal court litigationrelated to the terror attacks, ripped into the agreement afterhearing from several ground zero responders speak tearfully oftheir illnesses and after receiving letters and phone calls fromothers expressing confusion about the deal.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the judge's actions, whichhe announced from the bench, would kill the settlement entirely.

The deal had taken years to negotiate and was announced March11, with about two months to go until the first trials.

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