Thoughts on the 9/11 Settlement From Professor Charles Silver
A reader submitted this story to me this morning:
If there are good characters and bad characters in this drama, the workers' lawyers are wearing white hats.
True, the lawyers did not agree to represent the workers for free. Their retainer agreements entitle them to contingent fees equal to one-third of the recovery plus expenses, about $200 million. New York law expressly deems fees of this level "fair and reasonable," except in medical malpractice cases, where a lower cap applies.
The workers were smart to hire lawyers at the prevailing rate. To understand why, consider one fact: The city paid a high-priced D.C. law firm more than $200 million to defeat the workers' claims.
All told, the lawyers spent about $30 million of their own money with no guarantee of repayment. Why so much? Because for six years the city and its co-defendants fought the workers tooth and nail. For example, I'm told that in the 12 cases scheduled for trial in May, the defendants filed more than 200 motions to dismiss. Scorched earth tactics make lawsuits expensive. They also force plaintiffs' attorneys to expend enormous amounts of time.
As Professor Silver points out, the defense lawyers got paid for every hour they worked, and had no out-of-pocket expenses. Plaintiffs’ lawyers don’t have that advantage. Nor do plaintiffs’ lawyers have anything to gain by dragging out the litigation. Food for thought.