World Trade Center Rescue Workers Get Offer from New York City to Negotiate in LawsuitOct 18, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
World Trade Center rescue workers sickened from inhaling toxic dust have received word that New York City is willing to enter negotiations to settle a lawsuit filed by the workers. The settlement talks would involve about 9,000 consolidated claims filed by World Trade Center emergency workers seeking damages from the city.
About 40,000 people helped with the rescue and cleanup efforts at Ground Zero in the weeks following the terrorist attacks. Now many of them are faced with chronic respiratory, gastrointestinal and mental health problems. A study by the Mt. Sinai Medical Center found that of 9,000 emergency workers, 70-percent had suffered some type of lung ailment after the attacks, and that 60-percent still faced respiratory problems. In May the FDNY reported that cases of the rare lung disease sarcoidosis had risen dramatically among firefighters and EMS workers who had spent time at Ground Zero. And the New York City Department of Health recently found that one in eight first responders still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These types of health problems have left many World Trade Center rescue workers unable to work. The high medical bills that have resulted from their conditions have only added to their financial and personal hardships. Many have had no choice but to resort to lawsuits in an attempt to achieve some measure of financial security.
According to some New York City media reports, the 9,000 plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit against the city received letters from their attorney informing them that "The City of New York and the contractors have indicated that they want to negotiate a global or aggregate settlement on behalf of all our WTC clients," The letter went on to say that it would be up to the World Trade Center rescue workers to accept or reject any settlement offer, and they would also decide how the money would be divided among the plaintiffs.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg confirmed that the city had offered to negotiate. But he said that the city had not made any firm monetary offers, and that there was no guarantee that any talks would result in a settlement. Earlier this year, New York City had tried to have the lawsuit dismissed in federal court.
New York City does have access to a $1 billion federal fund that it could access to settle the lawsuit. However, some advocates for sick World Trade Center rescue workers do not believe even that amount will be enough to cover their long-term care. Some estimates have suggested that medical expenses for the sickened World Trade Center responders could eventually reach $393 million each year.