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Ground Zero Workers and Attorneys Decry Times Article


New York, New York, June 25, 2008: Workers who became sick from exposure to toxic substances during the rescue and clean up process at the World Trade Center site following the 9/11 attacks, as well as their attorneys, reacted with disgust Wednesday to a NEW YORK TIMES article questioning whether, in fact, their clients were actually injured. “Contrasted against the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Editorial staff for their moving series of editorials about the plight of the Ground Zero workers, the TIMES article seems nothing less than a sad attempt to garner publicity for the paper and the author of the article by attacking the workers’ integrity and that of the dedicated medical professionals who treat them,” said John Walcott, a retired New York City Police Detective who suffers from leukemia his physicians have tied to Ground Zero exposure. Marc Jay Bern, a Partner at Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, LLP, one of two firms appointed by the United States District Court as Co-Liaison Counsel for the injured workers, says that a close review of the City’s and its attorneys’ claims in minimizing the impact of Ground Zero exposures demonstrates that the City’s lead counsel, James E. Tyrrell, Jr., of Patton Boggs, LLP, has misled the Court in his characterization of the workers’ illnesses and their severity.

Such life threatening diseases as Asthma and Sarcoidosis have been diagnosed following the workers’ time at Ground Zero, and have no cure. “Anybody with access to the internet or a medical dictionary can tell you that Asthma and Sarcoidosis are incurable, permanent conditions that may be managed, but are never considered ‘cured,’” said Bern, who added “these diseases, along with other well-documented Ground Zero-related illnesses like pulmonary fibrosis and silicosis, are progressive and disabling.” As a result, the plaintiffs and their counsel contend, the City cannot reasonably argue that the workers who are currently having only symptoms of the diseases will not progress as the disease advances to serious impairment or even death as the years pass.

The City of New York’s own studies show that the workers’ illnesses have been medically tied to their Ground Zero exposures to dust, smoke and particulate matter including concrete dust and multiple chemical agents created by the burning of furniture, carpeting and office equipment. “If you spend a just few minutes in a room with former Ground Zero workers, many of whom were huge strapping firefighters, police officers and construction workers in the prime of their lives on 9/11 and who are now gasping for breath as they speak, some of them dependent on portable oxygen tanks just to leave their homes, you will understand that the City’s attack on these people is truly obscene,” said Bern. He noted that TIMES writer Anthony DePalma was provided much of the medical evidence supporting the workers’ claims in recent months while he has been working on a series of 9/11-related articles for the TIMES, and therefore knows that the impugning of the workers’ claims of illness and disability in his article was baseless.

The City’s conduct is “disgraceful” to the ground zero workers, and the indisputable ill health that they suffer because they were not provided proper respiratory protection that the city lawyers have chosen to assess incomplete information and provide inaccurate and manipulated data. These actions are a thinly-veiled attempt to lessen the City’s legal, moral and financial responsibility to provide desperately needed benefits and compensation to thousands of workers who suffer respiratory and gastrointestinal injury, cardiac problems, cancer and even death. Bern noted that “the City and the contractor defendants were given $1 billion by Congress to pay the claims of these ill workers in addition to a legislative cap of $350,000,000.00 and have paid no claims for respiratory illness. Instead of using that money to help the Ground Zero workers, the City has instead chosen to pay their lawyers and administrators over $170 million thus far to fight these heroes.”

Bern said that “contrary to the City’s lawyers’ biased review of selected records for selected workers, we are in the final states of analyzing with our experts, the medical files, employment files, interviews and testimony of 10,000 workers so that we can provide the Court an accurate summary of the various ground zero related illnesses.” Bern said their findings would be released shortly. He also noted that the incidences of Ground Zero related diseases were published in 2007 by Mt. Sinai Medical Center physicians specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of environmental toxins in the workplace, including the World Trade Center disaster site. That study, specifically addressing patients seen at the World Trade Center Health Effects Treatment Program, showed that 78.5% of the workers seen at the program had upper airway diseases, 57.6% had gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and 48.9% had lower airway disease, all of which can be extremely debilitating.

As Bern noted, “it’s worth remembering that the City of New York still refuses to acknowledge that hero cop James Zadroga died from the result of his Ground Zero exposures, despite the medical examiner’s express findings to that effect.” “Given the City’s track record of paying hundreds of millions of dollars to its lawyers to fight these heroes, men and women who put their own life and their families’ futures on the line when the City needed them, it is hardly surprising that they would allow their attorneys to continue this shameful attack on the City’s heroes by making such ridiculous allegations to the NEW YORK TIMES,” Bern concluded.


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