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Family of WTC victim gets first federal payout

Friday, August 9, 2002

WASHINGTON -- The family of a man killed in the World Trade Center attack has accepted a $1.04 million award from the federal victims compensation fund, the first to acknowledge such a payout.

The victim was a recent college graduate in his 20s, who was unmarried and without children, and who earned nearly $60,000 a year in the financial services industry, according to Roberta Gordon, the lawyer for his family.

The fund, created by Congress after Sept. 11 and run by Kenneth Feinberg, awarded the man $1.19 million for his unfulfilled financial potential and for the family's pain and suffering -- minus life insurance and workers compensation payments.

Feinberg estimated that average awards from the fund will be $1.85 million.

But Gordon said Thursday that the award was on the high end of the family's expectations.

"I thought it was eminently fair," Gordon said.

Many families ambivalent about the fund are watching the first batch of awards to get a sense of how generous Feinberg will be and how he will rule on some still ambiguous issues. To be eligible for the payments, families must agree not to sue airlines, the government or other entities.

Awards are based on a formula that includes earning potential and a non-economic payout for pain and suffering of $250,000. Another $100,000 is added for a spouse or each dependent child.

Gordon called the award "another sad milestone" for the family.

"They want closure," she said. "This is very emotional for them. Getting this award is not a joyous occasion."

Gordon agreed to share details of her clients' case but only on condition that their identities not be revealed.

News of the award was first reported in The New York Times.

It could be some time still before the family sees the money, and questions remain over exactly how it will be distributed, Gordon said. A portion of the award must adhere to a victim's will or state estate laws if no will exists. Another portion must meet laws governing wrongful death payouts. The award notice came with a detailed legal checklist that, among other things, asked whether the family wanted the award in a lump sum payment or in another form.

Some 650 victims' families have applied to the fund so far.

The Justice Department, which is administrating the fund, said it could not confirm details of the case or say whether others have accepted fund awards.

Spokesman Charles Miller said in the next few weeks the department would post on its Web site information about those who have accepted awards from the fund to provide an idea of the awards' size. Names and other identifying characteristics would not be included, he said.


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