9/11 Families, Except One, Receive Over $7 Billion

PHOTO: Mark Bavis
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Ten years after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, deceased victims' families and the injured have been compensated over $7 billion. Of 2,977 victims who lost their lives as a result of the attack, only one survivor's family has refrained from settling its claims with the airline and a security company they say were negligent.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, created by Congress, distributed $7 billion to survivors and victims' families. There have been 2,983 families of those who died and received an average of just over $2 million tax-free per claim, according to Kenneth Feinberg, former pro bono administrator of the fund.

In addition, 2,300 physically injured 9/11 victims or those who suffered from respiratory problems cleaning up the World Trade Center were each awarded $400,000 tax-free, on average, Feinberg said.

Feinberg started distributing compensation 11 days after the program was established and began cutting checks in April 2002, until the fund expired by statute in June 2004.

Feinberg said 94 families who lost a loved one on September 11 opted not to participate in the fund and decided voluntarily to litigate in Manhattan. And 93 of those 94 settled over the past five years. Only the Bavis family is going to trial.

The Bavis family of Massachusetts will resume their lawsuit in New York City against United Airlines and security company Huntleigh on September 19 in a hearing, with a trial date scheduled for November.

The family first filed the suit in September 2002. Mary Bavis, the named plaintiff, is the mother of Mark Bavis who was aboard United Airlines flight 175 from Boston when it struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

Other companies and cities that the Bavis initially sued have been dropped from the suit over time. The New York district court dismissed Massport, for example, which oversees Boston Logan airport, focusing on the checkpoint process, Migliori said.

The families that opted out of the fund and eventually settled may have received on average of under $5 million, using figures from the report of Sheila Birnbaum, the 9/11 mediator. The information, however, is confidential.

For most lawsuits that are not pro-bono, attorneys receive 33 to 50 percent of their client's reward, depending on state laws and client agreements, said Brian Fitzpatrick, professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School.

The Bavis family has said it is not interested in money but wants justice.

"From the very beginning my family has wanted accountability and an airing of the facts to explain why this happened so easily and we have yet to get there," Mike Bavis, the victim's brother, told ABC News.

Don Migliori, an attorney representing the Bavis family, represented 56 of the families who opted not to participate in the fund. He said he represented his clients pro bono because the fund paid out a fraction of value of the claims. Migliori said the family is looking for information and just compensation.

"That doesn't mean just a lot of money. What they're looking for is compensation that reflects not only the loss but a statement of accountability for defendants," Migliori said. "[The Bavis family] have been able to ask specific questions and answers for the security failure at the four airports involved. They want some kind of accountability statement to acknowledge their failures."

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