Sunday, May 20, 2012
Widow of FDNY Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino reaches $10M settlement 5 years after hero husband dies in Deutsche Bank fire
Photo: Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta (left) and Fire Chief Salvatore Cassano with Linda Graffagnino. The widow of fallen Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino reached a stunning $10 million settlement after her husband was killed in Deutsche Bank fire in 2007.
The widow of a firefighter killed in the Deutsche Bank fire has reached a stunning $10 million settlement with the city and contractor held responsible for safety lapses at the tower.
Nearly five years after the tragedy, Bovis Lend Lease has agreed to pay Joseph Graffagnino’s widow, Linda, and her two small children $9 million, while the city has signed off on covering another $1 million, documents obtained by the Daily News show.
The settlement still must be approved by a Manhattan Supreme Court justice, which is expected at a hearing set for Monday.
The settlement will mark the final chapter in a painful saga that exposed outrageous incompetence by the contractors tasked with tearing down the wrecked office tower and their government overseers.
On Aug. 18, 2007, Graffagnino and Firefighter Robert Beddia became trapped in a smoky fire in the 14th floor stairwell of the former Deutsche Bank tower. The building had been damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the adjacent World Trade Center.
An investigation revealed multiple safety gaps by the contractor, Bovis, its subcontractor, John Galt Co., and the city and state agencies — including the fire and buildings departments — tasked with keeping the site safe. A standpipe that would have taken water to the upper floors had been cut, and the FDNY had failed to inspect the building regularly as required.
Beddia’s family settled two years ago for $6 million. Bovis reached a non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan district attorney to avoid criminal charges, while the three job site supervisors who were charged with manslaughter were all acquitted.
Graffagnino’s attorney John Meringolo, who is a childhood friend of Graffagnino, declined to discuss the settlement, but papers filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court outlined the deal.
In February, Bovis and the city quietly made the $10 million offer, which would be paid out to Linda Graffagnino, 38, and her two children, Joseph Jr., 5, and Mia, 8, in installments over the next decade. In the subsequent weeks, all three sides have ironed out the details.
The figure is based in part on the fact that Graffagnino was a young man — two days short of his 34th birthday — when he perished.
A document filed in court states that Meringolo will take 23% of the settlement, much less than the usual one-third cut, which leaves the widow and her children with $7.6 million.
The settlement ends all litigation with Bovis and the city, but the Graffagnino family still has a pending civil suit filed against John Galt Corp., the mob-tied demolition company that was found to have cut numerous corners on safety inside the tower during demolition.
Though Bovis avoided criminal charges in the Deutsche Bank fire, last month the company was charged criminally with overbilling for fictional overtime on numerous city projects — including the Deutche Bank job.
As part of a plea deal, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch agreed to defer prosecution of those charges if Bovis agreed to pay a $56 million fine.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/widow-firefighter-joseph-graffagnino-reaches-10m-settlement-5-years-hero-husband-dies-deutsche-bank-fire-article-1.1081291#ixzz1vPbQyMge