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Possible settlement over Kennedy crash

Lauren Bessette, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
Lauren Bessette, left, and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The mother of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Lauren Bessette has obtained court permission to settle her compensation claim with the estate of John F. Kennedy Jr., almost two years since a plane crash claimed the lives of the two women and the son of the late President.

Manhattan Surrogate Renee Roth has granted Ann Freeman permission "to compromise and settle the cause of action against the estate of John F. Kennedy, Jr. for the wrongful death and conscious pain and suffering" of her daughters, according to the court decree reviewed by CNN.

Freeman filed the application on June 29; Roth granted it Monday.

On July 16, 1999, Kennedy, 38, his wife Carolyn, 33, and her sister Lauren, 34, all died when his Piper Saratoga prop plane crashed in the ocean west of Martha's Vineyard. Kennedy and his wife, en route to a family wedding at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, were dropping off Lauren at the Vineyard.


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In July 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board report blamed the crash on pilot error, saying Kennedy didn't have enough experience to fly a hazy nighttime flight. He had received his pilot's license only 15-months before the fatal trip.

Neither Freeman, nor the women's father, William Bessette, ever filed a wrongful death suit against Kennedy's estate. The couple, divorced when their children were very young, has a third daughter, Lisa, 36, Lauren's twin.

The compensation agreement, would "discharge and release" Kennedy's estate from "all suits and claims upon payment."

According to the decree, Freeman would hold the settlement proceeds until she reaches a written allocation agreement with her ex-husband.

Constantine Ralli, Freeman's attorney, told CNN, "The parties are reasonable, and we will do it reasonably."

John F. Kennedy Jr.
John F. Kennedy Jr.  

Ralli described a New York Post story placing the settlement figure at $15 million as inaccurate. "I don't know where they got that number," Ralli said.

Ralli declined to offer an accurate settlement figure or timetable.

Settlement talks have been under way for more than a year. Ralli told the Hartford Courant on the first anniversary of the crash that the two families "hope to keep cooperating in a non-judicial, non-public way."

In his will, Kennedy left his personal belongings and some property to the children of his sister, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and left his money in a trust benefiting family, friends, and charities, according to documents filed in Manhattan Surrogate's Court in September 1999.

Kennedy's cousin, Timothy Shriver, is executor of the estate. Published reports have estimated its value between $30 million to $100 million.

-- CNN's Phil Hirschkorn, Adam Reiss, and Abigail Brigham contributed to this report.


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