NEW YORK (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday refused to toss out claims
by thousands of emergency workers who sued New York City and about 150
private contractors after the workers were sickened by dust at the
World Trade Center site.
Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein dismissed claims against Consolidated Edison
Co. and companies controlled by developer Larry Silverstein, saying
they did not have legal control over the area and therefore were not
liable for damages.
But Hellerstein said the city, its contractors, and the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey were only partially immune from lawsuits,
with the precise scope and extent of the immunity varying according to
date, place and activity.
Andrew J. Carboy, a lawyer for plaintiffs, called the judge's decision
"a first step forward in the legal system for these other victims of
Carboy, who represents 210 clients, mostly firefighters, said
Hellerstein's decision comes as the number of people making claims
climbs as high as 8,000.
Michael A. Cardozo, the city's top lawyer, said a close study of the
facts surrounding the claims will show that the city and its
contractors were not liable.
Hellerstein said he will appoint a special master to help eliminate
claims that should not be pressed and oversee a case that is "likely to
"If even a minority of the plaintiffs suffered serious injuries to
their respiratory tracts arising from the acrid air of September 11,
their claims deserve to be heard when a recovery could make a
difference in their lives," the judge wrote.
He said the defendants also are entitled to swift resolution. "The scar
to the public interest needs to be cleansed, speedily, in good time,"
The workers claim the city and contractors were negligent in monitoring
the air and assuring the safety of crews who cleaned up the World Trade
Center site for months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The judge noted that a study released in September showed that
approximately 70 percent of the 10,000 workers who were tested reported
that they suffer from new or substantially increased respiratory
problems since 9/11.
"The workers at the site were presented with a dangerous environment,
below and surrounding their work activities, threatening their health
and safety," the judge said.