9/11 Workers’ Class Action Suit Moves Forward
The 9/11 rescue and recovery workers fighting for compensation for the illnesses they suffered from lack of protection during cleanup work are a step closer to having their day in court, following a decision by the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals on Oct 5.
“Public interest favors permitting pretrial issues to resume,” the three-judge panel said. The ruling lifts the hold on legal proceedings that followed a request to the cour from New York City and the Port Authority of New York asking that the case be dismissed and for immunity from the workers’ claims.
The city and its contractors have argued they are immune from liability for the workers’ claims under the state Defense Emergency Act because the work was done under emergency conditions. The court ruling did not rule on the request for immunity but did state that to delay the case from moving forward “would be unconscionable, given the intense public interest” in a resolution of the case.
“This is a victory for the injured workers who can now proceed with their case. The idea that they don’t get a day in court is unacceptable – so we applaud the decision of the appeals court in this case,” said NYCOSH Chairperson William Henning, vice president, Local 1180, Communications Workers of America. “That somebody has to be held accountable is what this ruling is all about,” he added. “It remains for a jury to determine where the liability lies and that’s where this should be sorted out>”
“We hope the court will resist the efforts of the private contractors, who profited from the situation, to shift all liability to the local, state and federal government if indeed they were responsible for hazards which resulted in workers getting sick,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of NYCOSH.
NYCOSH, the New York State AFL-CIO, and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York filed “friend of the court” briefs in the case in their support of the sick workers.
In a related development, the Daily News reported on Oct. 16 that the city is seeking to reach a settlement in the case. Although both sides denied a deal was in the works, Mayor Bloomberg said that "Anytime you get sued, you always take a look at whether there is a way to come to a settlement which would be in everybody's interest."