9/11 Ground Zero Workers Reach Claims Settlement

Lawyers in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York have just completed a settlement agreement regarding the 10,000 plaintiffs who have filed lawsuits against the city of New York for exposing first responders and aid workers to hazardous materials after the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001. 

The settlement, in the amount of $657.5 million dollars has been agreed to be made available to the ten thousand plus citizens of New York who claim to have suffered heath problems as a result of their efforts in the recovery and clean up of Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks there.  The settlement amount will be divided between the plaintiffs based on numerous factors such as proximity to the site, severity of illnesses diagnosed, time of diagnoses, pre-existing conditions, age of victim, and smoking history. 

 Each individual, based on the merit and conditions of their health will receive anywhere from thousands of dollars to more than a million dollars. In the years since 9/11 thousands of New York firefighters, police officers, emergency workers, and construction employees have filed lawsuits against over 90 defendants, including the City of New York, and the private corporations hired to remove debris from Ground Zero.  The plaintiffs claim that as a result of improper safety practices, and lack of safety equipment their health condition has suffered.  The conditions they are suffering from are many, and range from asthma and other respiratory diseases to aggressive rare cancers such as lung, and esophageal. 

There is also the fear that deadly diseases and cancers have yet to appear in the body, but due to the exposure to toxic contaminants from the site, one day plaintiffs who are healthy today won’t be in 10 years or more.  In response to this possibility, and likelihood, the settlement contains a 23.4 million dollar insurance policy to be available for all future claims involving future diagnosis.

This enormous fund comes from a federally financed insurance company that insures the city of New York for over a billion dollars.  However, there is a catch involved with accepting the multimillion dollar settlement.  It states that at the very least 95% of the 10,000 plus plaintiffs must agree on the proposed settlement for it to work.  If 95% percent accept and 5% reject, than for the 95% accepting of the deal, the total amount in the settlement pool drops from $657.5 million dollars to $575 million. 

It is clear that the defendants want to quickly end this matter which has been a heated political issue for the past decade. For the men and women of New York who rushed to the scene, and put their lives at risk to help save others from the attacks of that day, this is a step forward in their battle.  Many people are still unaware of the hazardous materials that have been found at Ground Zero as a result of the damage done by the Twin Towers collapse.  Asbestos and other harmful construction materials were used in the building’s construction during the 1970s, and when the towers collapsed all those materials were pulverized into airborne microbes; which were breathed in by every individual there for weeks and months.  This is not to suggest that every single person there will develop cancers and deadly diseases, but the chances of such a disease have become more possible because of the exposure. 

When airborne asbestos fibers are breathed into the lungs there is a risk of developing mesothelioma, a cancer affecting the lining of the lungs.  Mesothelioma and other asbestos related illnesses are at risk in construction/demolition areas when proper safety practices are not taken seriously or ignored.

“Ground Zero
Workers Reach Deal Over Claims” by Mireya Navarro http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/science/earth/12zero.html