Feds Settle Anthrax Death Suit For $2.5 Million

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The widow and family of a tabloid photo editor who died in a 2001 anthrax attack in Boca Raton will receive $2.5 million from the federal government.

In exchange, Maureen Stevens will drop all other claims stemming from the death of Robert Stevens. The settlement names her and her three grown children, and notes that attorneys’ fees of no more than 25 percent will be paid out of that amount. According to court documents, the U.S. is not admitting fault.

Filed in 2003, Stevens’ lawsuit claimed the government was negligent because it failed to stop someone at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., from creating weapons-grade anthrax used in letters that killed her husband and four other people.

Seventeen more people were sickened.

Robert Stevens worked for American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, Sun and Globe tabloids when he was exposed to anthrax. He died Oct. 5, 2001. Other anthrax-laced letters were mailed to television networks in New York and a U.S. Senate office building in Washington.

After a lengthy investigation, the FBI concluded that a government scientist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, was solely responsible for the attacks. Ivins, however, committed suicide in 2008 and some who worked with him at Fort Detrick have expressed doubt that he did it or had the means to create the anthrax used in the letters.

For years the FBI investigation focused on another scientist, Steven Hatfill, who was identified as a “person of interest” in 2001 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Hatfill was eventually cleared and sued the government for invasion of privacy, resulting in a $5.8 million settlement.

Lawsuits filed by other victims have been dismissed, although at least one is on appeal.


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