Cancer-stricken WTC worker gets $0 settlement check
Then they took a 33.3 percent fee of $2,124.
They also subtracted $352, a fee to the lawyer who referred him.
The remaining $4,950 was withheld for unspecified “liens,” the letter says. Galvis thinks this was repayment of workers’ compensation for aid.
“I have hit rock bottom,” said Galvis, who is jobless and $30,000 in debt. “I was expecting a check, and you can imagine how I felt when I opened it. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke.”
The father of two, who lives in Glendale with his fiancée and her two kids, said he had to sell his car and relies on relatives for rent. “I get collection agencies whenever I open the mail. What little credit I had I don’t have anymore,” he said.
Galvis said he arrived in New York from Bogota, Colombia, in February 2001. Hired by contractors clearing dust and rubble from Merrill Lynch offices next to Ground Zero, Galvis said he toiled 16 hours a day for six months in a jumpsuit and paper mask that would tear when he sweated. At $8 an hour, he made close to $800 a week.
In May 2005, a friend gave him a business card passed out by the law firm. A representative came to his home.
“The man told me that more than likely I will get sick and I would get 60 percent of whatever he won,” Galvis said. “He even mentioned the words ‘millions of dollars.’ ”
In April 2010, he got a $10,000 offer. A letter from the law firm said he could expect about $5,000 after expenses and fees. It warned that if his case went to trial and he lost, he could owe the firm up to $100,000 in costs. He took the settlement.
His claim cited chronic rhinosinusitis and sleep disorders. He was diagnosed with throat cancer last August and began chemotherapy and radiation. But it was “too late” to adjust his claim.
“It was our pleasure to represent you in this matter,” the law firm says in a note that arrived with the zero-dollar check.
It was no pleasure for Galvis.
“I think they are taking advantage of the ignorance of people such as myself,” he said.
The total Merrill settlement came to $18 million for about 400 clients, documents show.
Galvis is one of nearly 10,000 Ground Zero workers represented by Napoli Bern, which led talks for a separate settlement with the city for $712 million.
Anger is also stirring among those clients, who have started getting checks for 40 percent of their total awards. Several told The Post the payouts were less than those estimated by Napoli Bern. Some said they felt duped.