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Noneconomic Damages Key in 9-11 Suits

Posted Sep 4, 2007 9:57 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Liability for pain and suffering is a key issue in 41 pending lawsuits against airlines, security companies and other defendants alleging negligence in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The plaintiffs in many of the cases would not have received high awards from the federal fund set up to compensate victims, the New York Times reports. Many plaintiffs are seeking awards on behalf of children or retirees without earning power, or single people without dependents.

Besides paying for economic losses, the Victim Compensation Fund paid $100,000 to spouses and children of victims and $250,000 for pain and suffering. The plaintiffs in the pending lawsuits say they are entitled to much more money for pain and suffering.

Fifty-three lawsuits out of 95 originally filed have settled. Plaintiffs firm Motley Rice of South Carolina handled 23 of the settled cases and 30 of those still pending.

The firm known for tobacco and asbestos litigation acquired nine clients on its own and 44 others when lawyer Mary Schiavo joined the firm. Schiavo is a former inspector general for the federal Department of Transportation.

In an unusual move, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein of New York has ordered that damages be tried before liability in six of the cases to help in settlement negotiations. The first two cases will be heard Sept. 24 and Oct. 15.

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