NEW YORK — A federal judge signed off on a legal settlement Thursday that could pay as much as $713 million to responders exposed to World Trade Center dust after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and he urged thousands of police officers, firefighters and construction workers to take the deal.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein gave his endorsement to the proposed package just three months after rejecting an earlier plan that would have put less money into the hands of ground zero workers who got sick after breathing the toxic ash.
He said months of negotiations produced a pact capable of ending the 7-year-old case, which pitted New York City officials against thousands of men and women hailed as heroes for their service at the trade center.
The new proposal would add roughly $125 million to the pot and include bigger payments for people diagnosed with cancer, an illness that has not yet been linked to the dust but is perhaps the most feared among the workers.
Under the terms of the agreement, 95 percent of the 10,000 workers involved in the case must opt in for it to be in effect. The agreement gives them 90 days to make up their minds.