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Outraged First Responders Announce Thursday Press Conference


New York, New York, March 18, 2009: Members of the City’s Uniformed Services outraged by the City of New York’s attempt to dismiss their claims for injuries suffered at the World Trade Center site following 9/11 have scheduled a press conference to be held on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan on Thursday, March 19, at noon. Famed Civil Rights attorney and public advocate Norman Siegel will speak, along with Jack McDonald, who is the President of the Uniformed Fire Fighters Association and other notable police officers and firefighters. Also appearing will be Marc Jay Bern, one of the Plaintiffs’ Liaison Counsel for the pending actions in the Federal Court.

The Bloomberg administration is attempting to have a United States Federal judge dismiss all claims of illness and injury sustained by uniformed services personnel as a result of their exposure to toxic materials during the rescue and recovery efforts after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. The City’s filing is directed specifically against the claims of New York’s first responders, i.e., police officers (NYPD and Port Authority Police), firefighters and emergency medical technicians employed by the FDNY, on claims that the basic workplace protections mandated by New York’s Labor Laws and extended to NYPD and FDNY members by the General Municipal Law do not extend to the uniformed services personnel who were stationed at the World Trade Center site for rescue, recovery and debris removal operations following the 9/11 attacks. Simply put, the City contends that the statutes requiring that those performing debris removal be provided with personal protective equipment, including respirators, simply do not apply to FDNY and NYPD members who worked at the World Trade Center Site.

The bid for dismissal comes shortly after the Court hearing the cases began a new effort to resolve them. Less than one week earlier, the Honorable Alvin K. Hellerstein, the judge presiding over more than 10,000 World Trade Center cases, announced an aggressive plan for the trials of the most critically injured first responders, paving the way toward a global settlement. In his decision, Judge Hellerstein wrote that “a basis for settlement or valuation by trial should prompt resolution of all such severe cases.” A March 2, 2009 editorial in the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS praised Hellerstein’s new program as “a magnificent exercise in case management and a powerful mechanism for forcing settlements” after over seven years of court battles.

The City’s latest effort to deprive injured police and firefighters of compensation also comes less than a year after a federal appeals court denied its earlier motion to dismiss all of the World Trade Center responders’ claims. Judge Hellerstein, who first denied that motion, admonished the defendants not to engage “in endless stratagems of motions and delays,” warning that “the availability of a billion dollar fund authorized by Congress should not serve as an encouragement to lengthen and complicate these proceedings.”

In February 2003, Congress appropriated $1 billion to the City to insure injury claims arising from debris removal. In announcing the passage of the legislation, Mayor Bloomberg explained, “This legislation is necessary for the City to expedite the payment of claims relating to this effort.” To date, not one of the approximately 10,000 World Trade Center respiratory claims has settled; however, City attorneys Patton Boggs have been paid in excess of $100 million in legal fees, taken from the $1 billion dollar federal fund.

The First Responders find these arguments a callous and morally reprehensible attempt to deprive them of basic workplace protections and worse, to question the validity of their debilitating and – in some cases – life threatening illnesses. The motions seek to deprive them of their right to the same workplace protections afforded not only to persons employed on construction and demolition sites, but also to any person “lawfully frequenting” such worksites under, among other things, section 200 of the State Labor Law and the General Municipal Law provisions that extend the right to seek redress for injuries to the uniformed services.

In the days and weeks after 9/11, FDNY firefighters, NYPD and Port Authority police officers and emergency medical technicians responded valiantly and without regard for their own personal safety to rescue and recover as many of their fellow citizens and brother firefighters and police officers as they could find. Seven and a half years later, that very dangerous work in an environment fraught with toxic gases and particulate matter has rendered thousands of those first responders desperately ill and in many cases unable to work.

For more information contact:
Marc Jay Bern, Esq.
Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, LLP
350 Fifth Avenue, Suite 7413
New York, New York 10118
Phone: (646) 381-7040


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