Apparently, some 9/11 first responders who want to file compensation claims under the federal Zadroga Act aren’t receiving any help from some of the lawyers who made millions in fees representing them in the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement. According to a report from The New York Post, the clients have been dropped by their attorneys because the Zadroga Act forbids law firms from collecting fees for those services if they have already billed a client for representation in the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement.
The World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement, which was finalized in 2010 by New York City, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and a number of contractors involved in Ground Zero clean-up efforts, set aside more than $600 million for 9/11 first responders who suffered respiratory ailments and other health problems because of their exposure to toxic dust. The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which became law in December 2010, reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust.
Sickened Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers may obtain compensation from both the toxic dust settlement and the Zadroga Act fund. Under the terms of the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement, their attorneys are entitled to collect a 25% fee of any compensation their clients recover. However, if those same clients are also granted Zadroga Act compensation, their lawyers are prohibited from collecting another fee for assistance rendered on those claims. However, in cases where a law firm did not assist a client with a settlement claim, the firm may assess a 10% fee for Zadroga Act assistance.
There is nothing in the Zadroga law that prevents any firm from keeping clients who have filed claims under the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement. However, according to The New York Post, their inability to double dip on fees has prompted some law firms to refuse assistance to settlement clients who also want to make Zadroga Act claims. The firms are abandoning these clients, even though in some cases, they’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars representing these Ground Zero responders in the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement. Not surprisingly, some of the heroes of 9/11 are feeling betrayed.
“This firm made over $200 million from the mass tort,” John Feal, an advocate for 9/11 responders, said of one law firm in particular. “You would think there would be a moral obligation to represent those sick and dying under Zadroga pro bono,” he told the New York Post.
While the inability to make money off of Zadroga Act claims has caused some to turn their backs on Ground Zero responders, not all law firms are doing so. The national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP, for one, has promised to stand by the Ground Zero responders, and will continue to represent them in both World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement and Zadroga Act claims.