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Anthrax Victim's Family Settles for $2.5M

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on November 30, 2011 5:56 AM

Ten years ago, photo editor Robert Stevens died after inhaling anthrax sent through the mail to American Media in Florida, the publisher of tabloids such as the Sun and the National Enquirer. He was the first of about 17 different anthrax victims. Four others died, while the rest were sickened.

The FBI later connected the attacks to a government scientist who committed suicide when investigators began closing in.

The family has now settled with the U.S. government for $2.5 million over Stevens' death. Stevens' wife, Maureen, had alleged that the government was negligent. The family had previously sought $50 million, reports CNN.

The settlement will allow the government to pay without admitting blame. Stevens’ family previously alleged that the government failed to keep tight safeguards on anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, located in Fort Detrick, Maryland. The scientist linked to the anthrax worked at the facility. A federal investigation traced the deadly spores back to the military facility, according to NPR.

Stevens’ attorney told The Wall Street Journal that Maureen Stevens was pleased with the settlement outcome. It allows the family to avoid a lengthy trial process, possible appeals, and would benefit her children. Her attorney also said he was confident she would have prevailed at trial.

In order to do so, the family would have had to shown that the government breached its duty to Stevens. It’s possible that this could be proven by demonstrating the facility had lax security.

The suit filed by the family of anthrax victim Robert Stevens was not the only one filed against the government. Other lawsuits have been dismissed, though one is still being appealed. A judge in 2004 ruled that the U.S. Postal Service was immune from a lawsuit lodged by employees of a postal facility where two workers died from poisoning.

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