Kenneth Feinberg has been exposed to almost incalculable grief and tragedy in his lifetime. A Washington, D.C. lawyer, Feinberg was appointed to head the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, which was established by the federal government to provide compensation to victims' families for lost wages, pain and suffering, and other monetary damages. When the program was launched, many September 11 families criticized it as a tight-fisted effort to protect airlines from negligence claims that put insulting dollar values on the lives of loved ones.
Feinberg will discuss his experiences as administrator of the fund in a talk, "The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund: Private Pain and Public Compensation," on Tuesday, March 6, at 4:30 p.m. at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in the Moot Courtroom (A59), 11075 East Boulevard. Feinberg's talk is being sponsored by CISCDR, the law school's Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Conflict and Dispute Resolution.
Feinberg told ABC News in December 2003 that he quickly learned to become more sensitive after initially rubbing many families the wrong way. "I think the families changed, I changed, the American people changed. I think everybody evolved," he told the network. "I mean, there had never been anything like this."
In his capacity as head of the fund, Feinberg developed and disseminated the regulations governing the administration of the fund and administered all aspects of the program, including evaluating applications, determining appropriate compensation, and distributing awards. The fund ultimately paid more than $7 billion making approximately 5,300 awards to 9/11 families and surviving physically injured victims of the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.
Feinberg had to estimate how much each victim would have earned in a full lifetime. Once a family accepted his offer, there was no appeal. "It's a brutal, sort of cold, thing to do," Feinberg said in the ABC News interview. "Anybody who looks at this program and expects that by cutting a U.S. Treasury check, you are going to make 9/11 families happy, is vastly misunderstanding what's going on with this program. There is not one family member I've met who wouldn't gladly give back the check, or, in many cases, give their own lives to have that loved one back. 'Happy' never enters into this equation."
Calvin W. Sharpe, the John Deaver Drinko Baker & Hostetler Professor of Law and director of CISCDR, says that Feinberg's experiences are something that Case Western Reserve University law students and the community should hear about.
"We're fortunate to have one of the country's leading experts in mediation and dispute resolution talk to our students and the community about this very difficult time in our country's history, not only emotionally but in legal terms," said Sharpe. "Ken Feinberg, along with the victims and their families, experienced something that all of us in the legal profession and as human beings never expected to go through and hope that an event like the September 11 terrorist attacks never happens again."
Feinberg is an attorney and one of the nation's leading experts in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. He is the managing partner and founder of The Feinberg Group, LLP. He has served as adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, University of Pennsylvania Law School, New York University School of Law, the University of Virginia Law School, and Columbia Law School. He has been Court-Appointed Special Settlement Master, mediator, and arbitrator in thousands of disputes involving such issues as mass torts, breach of contract, antitrust and civil RICO violations, civil fraud, product liability, insurance coverage, and various commercial and environmental matters.
Feinberg was also one of three arbitrators selected to determine the fair market value of the original Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination. He also was one of two arbitrators selected to determine the allocation of legal fees in the Holocaust slave labor litigation.
One free hour of CLE credit is available for lawyers who attend in person. For more information, call 216-368-3304 or visit http://law.case.edu/lectures. The lecture will be webcast live at http://law.case.edu/lectures.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.