updated 3/25/2006 6:48:45 AM ET 2006-03-25T11:48:45

The city has agreed to pay nearly $9 million to settle a lawsuit brought by a former waiter and avid hiker who lost his legs in a 2003 ferry crash, lawyers said Friday.

The payout for Paul Esposito was by far the largest so far in the tragedy that killed 11 passengers and injured dozens of others. Ninety-nine of the 190 claims against the city have been settled for a total of $3.6 million, city officials said.

Esposito’s attorney, Derek Sells, said the settlement was fair, given that his client’s injuries “forever altered the way he can live his life.”

In a statement, one of the city’s top attorneys, Lawrence Kahn, confirmed that the city agreed to pay $8,986,852.

Esposito was scheduled to receive monthly payments for the next 50 years to cover medical costs and living expenses. With interest, he could collect an estimated $25.6 million during that period, Sells said.

Esposito had sued for $300 million in damages in 2003, alleging that the crew of the Andrew J. Barberi and city officials “basically left him to die” after the ferry drifted off course and slammed full-speed into a concrete pier on Staten Island on Oct. 15, 2003.

As he lay immobilized and bleeding profusely, the crew and city employees did not assist him, he alleged. A British nurse tied a belt around his limbs above the knee, stemming the blood flow. His legs were later amputated.

The former ferry captain received 18 months in prison for passing out at the helm before the crash, and the city’s former ferry director got one year and a day for failing to enforce a rule requiring ferries be operated by two pilots whenever docking.

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