12.27.11 More than 1,600 people who filed lawsuits claiming that their health was ruined by dust and smoke from the collapsed World Trade Center must decide by Jan. 2 whether to keep fighting in court, or drop the litigation and apply for benefits from a government compensation fund.
For some, the choice is fraught with risk.
Federal lawmakers set aside $2.76 billion last winter for people who developed illnesses after spending time in the ash-choked disaster zone.
But to be considered for a share of the aid, all potential applicants must dismiss any pending lawsuits by the deadline and give up their right to sue forever over 9/11 health problems. Anyone with a lawsuit still pending on Jan. 3 is barred from the program for life.