N E W Y O R K, July 12, 2001 -- A judge has given the mother of John F. KennedyJr.'s wife and sister-in-law the right to reach a settlement withhis estate as a result of their fatal plane crash two years ago.
A lawyer for Ann Freeman, the mother, denied published reportsthat a $15 million settlement already had been reached.
"I've always said the parties are all reasonable people whowould settle this in a nonpublic, nonjudicial way," said Freemancounsel Constantin Ralli.
Surrogate Renee Roth, in a decree signed Monday, said Freemancould settle with the Kennedy estate "for the wrongful death andconscious pain and suffering" of her daughters.
Kennedy, 38, son of the late U.S. president; his wife, CarolynBessette Kennedy, 33; and her sister Lauren Bessette, 34, werekilled when a single-engine Piper that Kennedy was piloting crashedin the ocean near Martha's Vineyard on July 16, 1999.
Pilot Error Blamed in Crash
Ralli refused to say when the estates would settle or what thelikely settlement amount would be.
Martin Edelman, lawyer for the Kennedy estate, could not bereached by telephone for comment.
A report of the National Transportation Safety Board blamedpilot error for the crash, saying Kennedy, who had been flying for15 months, was not skilled enough for low-visibility night flying.
The judge signed the settlement decree just one week before thetwo-year statute of limitations for the death claims would havelapsed on July 16.
Kennedy's will, filed in September 1999, left most of his moneyin a trust that benefits his family and several charities. He leftmost of his personal belongings to the children of sister CarolineKennedy Schlossberg.
The size of his estate was not disclosed publicly, but it wasbelieved to be about $50 million.
The judge also ordered Freeman, of Greenwich, Conn., to holdsettlement money in a separate account until she deducts legal feesand agrees with ex-husband William Bessette, of White Plains, N.Y.,on how to divide it.