A £383M ($575M) compensation deal for rescue workers made ill by dust and ash at the World Trade Centre in New York has been rejected by a federal judge.
The deal shortchanged 10,000 police officers, firefighters and other labourers, according to US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein.
He added those who worked at ground zero were heroes.
The 76-year-old judge said those involved in the rescue and clear up operation following the 9/11 terrorist attacks were being pushed into a deal that few of them understood.
In front of a stunned federal courthouse in Manhattan on Friday, Judge Hellerstein said: “In my judgement, this settlement is not enough.”
Under the terms of the settlement, workers had been given just 90 days to say yes or no to a deal that would have assigned them payments based on a point system that Hellerstein said was ‘complicated enough to make a Talmudic scholar’s head spin’.
“I will not preside over a settlement that is based on fear or ignorance,” he said.
Of the proposed settlement of £383M ($575M) to £438M ($657M), workers stood to get amounts ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than £668,000 ($1M).
Hellerstein said the deal should be richer. Too much of it would be eaten up by legal fees, he said.
New York City’s chief lawyer, Michael Cardozo, said, “We have great respect for Judge Hellerstein and will consider his comments, but his reaction to the settlement will make it extremely difficult to resolve these cases.”