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Anthrax victim Robert Stevens' family settles suit for $2.5 million

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The settlement avoids a trial that had been set for early 2012 before Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, who had earlier rebuffed U.S. efforts to get the case dismissed.

The American Media building in Florida, where Stevens worked, received a tainted letter. (Photo: Associated Press)

The deal allows for attorney fees of up to 25 percent and requires that a host of sensitive documents be destroyed or returned to U.S. officials. In addition to Maureen Stevens, 68, the settlement will benefit her three grown children.

Schuler said he felt confident Stevens would prevail at a trial but likely would face years of appeals and uncertainty about whether she would ever collect. The settlement avoids all that.

"She's delighted that the case has come to a successful conclusion and with the improved security the government has engaged in," Schuler said.

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, eventually reaching a $5.8 million settlement.

Lawsuits filed by other victims have been dismissed, although at least one is on appeal. Employees of a postal facility in Washington, D.C., where two workers died, sued the Postal Service for allegedly failing to protect them, but a judge in 2004 ruled that the service was immune.

The 67,200-square foot AMI building in Boca Raton, meanwhile, took years to decontaminate and was finally reopened in 2007. AMI had long since moved its headquarters to New York, leaving behind an archive of some 5 million photographs, although many were digitally scanned for preservation.

An AMI mailroom worker, Ernesto Blanco, was sickened in the attack but recovered.

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