It has emerged that thousands of rescue workers sickened after the September 11 attacks in New York have until the end of Monday to accept a settlement that could near 800 million dollars.
A settlement on Friday saw a subgroup of workers compensated 28 million dollars for exposure to debris removed and transferred from Ground Zero to Staten Island by marine transportation company Weeks Marine.
But US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein said in a related order that the plaintiffs could only claim compensation for it if they backed the larger agreement for up to 712.5 million dollars.
That settlement with New York City was reached in June and requires approval from 95 percent of the plaintiffs by 11:59 pm (0459 GMT) on Monday in order to be validated.
The proposed funds would be used for payments to the roughly 10,000 firefighters, health workers, police and other emergency responders who sought legal remedy after falling ill from toxic dust and debris emanating from the destroyed World Trade Center nine years ago.
Paul Napoli, who leads a legal team representing most of the plaintiffs, said he has since brokered additional agreements with other defendants, bringing the total potential compensation to 796.45 million dollars.
And further agreements are still possible, further increasing the amount.
Micheline Tang of Kekst and Company said proposed compensation from different defendants now totals 811.5 million dollars, but noted it could be inaccurate to aggregate the figures because different plaintiffs are suing different defendants.
"In addition, compensation will be determined based on the severity of the injury and the strength of the claim," she told AFP.
Her firm represents the WTC Captive Insurance Company, which will pay the larger settlement out of a federally financed fund.
Lawyers also reached a separate 47.5 million dollar settlement last month with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the World Trade Center.
Napoli said he and his colleagues "are very happy we have reached agreements with these defendants, following extensive negotiations that lasted several years."
"Negotiations with remaining defendants have been going on as well and we hope that the latest settlements will encourage those defendants to take this opportunity to resolve the remaining plaintiffs' claims against them in the near future," he added in a statement on Saturday.
In all cases, Hellerstein found the allocation process to be "fair and reasonable."