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The long-time domestic partner of a World Trade Center victim should be given the opportunity to show she is entitled to a portion of a $530,000 award from the federal September 11th Victim Compensation fund, a Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn has ruled. The lawsuit pitted the victim’s domestic partner, Margaret Cruz, against the victim’s closest relative, her brother, James P. McAneney. Mr. McAneney, who was recognized by the fund as his sister’s personal representative, has refused to share any portion of the award with Cruz. Under fund rules, the only person designated to file an application is the estate’s personal representative as designated under state law. The fund was set up in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to allow families of victims to recover compensation without having to file a lawsuit and show fault. The fund went out of business on June 15 after distributing $6.9 billion to 5,551 families with members that were either killed or injured in the attacks. The plaintiff, Cruz, reported having lived with the victim, Patricia McAneney, for 19 years before she was killed. Ms. McAneney, who died without a will, was a claims adjuster for a subsidiary of Marsh McLennan, which had its office on the 94th floor of One World Trade Center. Pointing to the nature of the relationship between Ms. McAneney and Cruz, Justice Yvonne Lewis wrote in Cruz v. McAneney, “it would seem equitable that she should receive a portion of any 911 fund.” Lewis, however, described the legal issues posed by the dispute as matters of “first impression.” In that regard, she noted, “the federal fund defers to New York State Law which appears to have no law of general applicability that allows for domestic partners to inherit.” Nonetheless, Justice Lewis denied Mr. McAneney’s motion to dismiss and directed him to get further information from the fund as to how the award was calculated. Cruz based her claim to a share of the award on the fact that fund administrators increased the award by about $250,000 after she filed information about her relationship with Ms. McAneney. The initial fund award, after Mr. McAneney filed a claim, was $278,087. That amount was increased to $531,541 after Cruz filed a statement of interest. Last October, Justice Lewis issued a preliminary injunction ordering Mr. McAneney to preserve the entire award intact. He is challenging that order on appeal. Justice Lewis wrote that the distribution issue could not be resolved without “a clear determination as to how the award amount was established.” Cruz is represented by Eric Shimanoff of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel, and Mr. McAneney by Susan Kalib, of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn. Both lawyers worked pro bono.

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