Agreement has been reached between the two sides in the 9/11 lawsuits against the city of New York.
Lawyers representing injured workers and lawyers for the city have agreed to begin hearing cases in the spring of 2010.
Many of the plaintiffs were ground zero workers who were the first on the scene after the collapse of the World Trade towers on September 11, 2001.
Eventually about 10,000 emergency workers, firefighters, and city personnel continued to work at the site for nine-months during the rescue and recovery operation.
The lawsuits claim a variety of illnesses suffered resulted from the city's failure to offer breathing masks to those exposed to toxins in the dust and fires that burned at the site for months, calling it an "inexcusable violation of basic safety laws."
The city says it did distribute about 200,000 respirators at ground zero, but not everyone wore them, possibly because of conflicting directions and assurances by health officials that the air was safe.
Reportedly, more than 300 responders have gotten cancer and thousands of others have become sick from a variety of respiratory ailments and other diseases, Some responders have since died.
“The people who need relief the most will be at the front of the line, where they should be,” said Paul J. Napoli, an IB member,to the New York Times. His firm represents more than 9,000 of the workers.
Lawyers plan to move forward with at least 50 cases against the city and about 150 private contractors. The most severely injured cases to be heard first beginning May 16, 2010. Still undecided is whether the cases will be heard individually or in a group.
Part of the slow down in the case has been the difficulty of retrieving each plaintiff’s health records back to 1995 to determine their general health before 9/11.
“If I can’t get the records, I can’t prove the frauds,” said James Tyrrell, the lead lawyer for the city to the New York Times. The city could face a $1 billion liability if it is found to have been negligent.
Last September, a study on figures from the World Trade Center Health registry, found that three percent of adult workers and residents in the area around the time of the attack have developed asthma, at twice the rate of newly diagnosed asthma in the general population for the same time frame. An estimated 35,000 to 70,000 of those adults suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The registry is maintained by the New York City Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lawyers for the city had argued unsucessfully two years ago that the city was immune from legal action under a state civil defense law. Lawyers for the workers argued that Congress would not have established a $1 billion insurance fund in 2003 if the city was immune from lawsuits.#