Lawsuits Filed Over 9/11 Deaths Move Forward

Last week, as the nation observed the fifth anniversary of 9/11, lawyers are pressing forward with some 60 lawsuits, including Filipov's, in U.S. District Court in New York. When Congress passed the legislation enabling the Fund, it also provided that...

This effort to obtain greater amounts for "terror damages" is reportedly a factor in the low settlement rate to date. Another reason is that many of the plaintiffs are financially well off enough that they don't need to settle and want a trial to expose shortcomings they believe caused their loved ones' deaths.

Motley Rice, which represents 53 of the 60 remaining plaintiffs, has set up a "9/11 and Anti-Terrorism" practice group. Migliori said that five partners, including himself, six associates and about 40 support staff are involved in the New York cases. The firm is also pursuing a separate suit against terrorist organizations, banks and charities that allegedly act as fronts for individuals and countries connected to the 9/11 attacks. Migliori said that his firm is representing more than 8,000 plaintiffs in that matter.

Meanwhile, Loretta Filipov said that she really isn't paying attention to what's happening in the Southern District of New York. But she remembers the events of Sept. 11 clearly. Her husband flew off that morning for what was supposed to be a two-day trip to California to visit a client. He was winding down a successful career and looking ahead to the couple's 44th wedding anniversary on Sept. 14. They were planning a trip to Hawaii to celebrate.

Since then, Filipov has created the Al Filipov Peace and Justice Forum, which is connected to the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Concord, where she is an active member. She is also active in another pacifist organization, September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. "If money comes," she said, "those two foundations are where it will be going. "

Ground Zero workers sue for negligence

As the 9/11 suits against the airlines and security companies move toward trial, separate claims are being filed by Ground Zero workers who allege they are suffering health problems that could have been prevented if they had been issued proper respiratory protection.

David E. Worby, a partner in the White Plains, N.Y. law firm of Worby Groner Edelman, claims that more than 5,000 individual suits have been filed to date.

More than 100 defendants have been named - including New York City, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and scores of contractors - and are being sued under New York labor law on the grounds that they had an obligation to provide a safe place to work.

The defendants have moved to dismiss, arguing that they are immune from suit under New York's State Defense Emergency Act, which protects cities and private contractors from negligence lawsuits when they respond to foreign attacks. U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein has not ruled on the motion.

Evidence has been mounting that workers at the World Trade Center clean-up site were exposed to asbestos, benzene, PCBs, and hundreds of chemicals - yet most were not provided with proper protective equipment.

More than 40,000 people worked at the site, and Worby claims that 90 percent of them had inadequate protection.

"According to OSHA regulations, nobody should have been allowed on the site without a mask - and not just a mask; a hazmat [hazardous materials] suit," Worby said.

He contends that there was an unnecessary rush to clean up the site.

"The emergency ended after the first 24 to 36 hours. We weren't saving lives anymore, so this site should have been closed. Nobody should have been allowed on it. They've shown nothing since then to demonstrate why that was so important. "

Worby said that 50 of his clients have died from "what appears to be 9/11-related causes, such as thyroid cancers, leukemias, heart failures and lung diseases. "

He believes that unless the defendants are granted immunity, Ground Zero litigation could continue for many years, because many of the nearly 400,000 people who lived and worked in the area could have claims.

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