BINDER CRITICIZES SENATOR LEAHY'S BILL TO EXTEND
9-11 VICTIM COMPENSATION FUND DEADLINE

Perry Binder, JD

 

September 12, 2003

On September 9, 2003, Senator Leahy introduced a bill which calls for an extension of time for victims to file a claim under the government's Compensation Fund (changing the original deadline, December 22, 2003, to December 31, 2004).  However, this bill does not deal with troubling state statute of limitations issues in the 9-11 Litigation

I am not advocating which option the 9-11 victims' family representatives or survivors should choose (the Fund option, litigation option, or neither).  My only interest is in seeing that all grieving individuals from different states are treated equally, with respect to their options.

The question that should be addressed to Senator Leahy:  Shouldn't this bill also extend state statute of limitations (in the 9-11 Litigation) to mirror his December 31, 2004 Fund deadline?  A federal law would preempt the various state laws for 9-11 wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits.
 
This question is important for many reasons:
1-  Most attorneys and legal commentators are not sure which state statute of limitations applies in the 9-11 Litigation - whether New York law governs or some other state laws.  We know that New York State has a March 11, 2004 wrongful death statute of limitations for 9-11 cases (see my letter to the New York Attorney General, suggesting an extension), but, e.g., Pennsylvania and Virginia had Sept 11, 2003 deadlines.  A federal law would provide clarity by explicitly stating a Litigation filing deadline.
 
2-  The 9-11 Litigation is only in the preliminary stages.  In fact, a case management conference to discuss discovery issues won't even occur until September 26, 2003.  I believe that the next significant event in this case, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will not occur for several months, and a ruling will not occur for several months thereafter, unless the judge puts the motion on an accelerated schedule.  The victims' family representatives and survivors who have neither chosen the Fund nor the litigation option will be better able to assess both options after a summary judgment ruling.  Individuals who file with the Fund waive their right to litigate claims, and vice versa.  Therefore, if Senator Leahy extends the Compensation Fund deadline to Dec. 31, 2004, he should consider extending the state statutes of limitations for wrongful death and personal injury to December 31, 2004 (New York's personal injury statute of limitations appears to be 3 years, or September 11, 2004).  To make matters more complicated, there are potential 9-11 property claims as well, with relevant time frames.
 
Thus, I encourage Senator Leahy not to pass his bill as written.  Senator Leahy's bill, if passed, should unify the Compensation Fund deadline and all 9-11 state statutes of limitations to a December 31, 2004 deadline. 

This extension  would clear up a lot of confusion for concerned parties and their attorneys.

 

 

September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Extension Act of 2003 (Introduced in Senate)
 

108th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 1602

To amend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 to extend the deadline for filing a claim to December 31, 2004.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

September 9, 2003

Mr. LEAHY (for himself, Mr. DURBIN, Mr. SCHUMER, Mr. DODD, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mrs. CLINTON, Mr. CORZINE, and Mr. LAUTENBERG) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


A BILL

To amend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 to extend the deadline for filing a claim to December 31, 2004.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

SEC. 2. EXTENSION OF DEADLINE TO FILE A CLAIM TO DECEMBER 31, 2004.