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Kia Franklin

9/11 Families Settle After Information Gained

Five families have settled their lawsuits against airlines and others over the 9/11 attack and issues of possible security lapses that had remained unresolved for years. At trial, previously undisclosed information about security measures was revealed in corporate documents, deposition testimony, and other sources. The families that have settled say they now have the information they needed. From an AP article printed on FindLaw:

"We do feel we have the answers we sought," Julia Shontere, mother of Angela Houtz, a 27-year-old who worked in the office of naval intelligence at the Pentagon, said Wednesday.

A lawyer for some of the families elaborates:

"We wanted to know what happened that day at the checkpoints, in the aircraft and at the headquarters of the corporations," Franz said.

17 lawsuits remain open and are scheduled to begin next month. The details of the settlement await Judge Hellerstein's approval. See this article on Findlaw.com for more information.

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Posted at 3:42 PM, Oct 04, 2007 in 9/11 & Ground Zero
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Comments

I just checked on this case. The settlement findings and awards are now hidden behind confidentiality agreements. My understanding was that the suit was "to get the truth out" and that it "was not about the money".

Posted by: throckmorton | October 6, 2007 9:31 AM

Thanks for your comment. I agree to a large extent. I also detest confidentiality agreements when they hide issues that are relevant to public health and safety from the public and from other victims who could benefit from that information. It will be a shame if, at the conclusion of all these lawsuits, the information derived from them remains concealed from the public.

But the confidentiality agreements of these first 5 cases are sensitive to the other lawsuits that are still pending. To go public with that information now could seriously compromise those trials.

Then again, we don't know what the information is, and maybe if it's compelling enough (important for national security, for example) it should go public regardless of the impact on the trials. At least that's my opinion.

The party proposing confidentiality has the burden to establish a compelling privacy interest. Judges have, but rarely exercise, discretion to refuse to approve settlement agreements with confidentiality clauses if they think the secrecy requirement will negatively affect public health and safety. They just don't really do it.

What a lot of people don't know or talk about, though, is the fact that plaintiffs are often pressured to agree to secrecy, with the threat that if they don't the other party will just drag out litigation, protesting discovery requests for or moving to suppress every bit of requested evidence and thereby draining the plaintiff's resources. Then they join the folks who blame plaintiffs for "clogging" the system, when all they had to do was provide discovery when it was requested. Judges and plaintiffs lawyers also contribute to this problem by buying into that pressure not to look like a so-called "clogger" (instead of identifying who would be the real cloggers, if someone's gotta be one) and making it easy for plaintiffs to agree to secrecy even when compromises public health and safety.

This is a huge problem--thanks for raising this point. I hope the resolution of these cases doesn't serve as another example of this. We saw what happened with the Firestone tires and asbestos litigation as a result of secrecy agreements. We don't need any more examples. It is my hope that the remaining plaintiffs refuse to sign confidentiality agreements or agree to keep the information confidential only until resolution of the remaining trials.

Posted by: Kia | October 10, 2007 6:07 PM