After the World Trade Center attacks, we had the honor of representing 363 firefighters and families of deceased firefighters in the original September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (“VCF”). By securing more than $265 million for them, and not charging any legal fee, the firm earned the National Law Journal’s 2004 Pro bono Award.
In 2004, following the closure of the VCF, firefighters sickened by exposures at the World Trade Center continued to seek our help. We filed the first lawsuits against the City of New York and its contractors for their failure to provide respirators to rescue and recovery workers. The World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation, as the case became known, lasted for over seven years in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. During that time, the number of individually filed lawsuits grew to over 10,000, and our firm represented more than 600 firefighters. Appointed co-liaison counsel, our firm assumed a leading role in a long, difficult fight to secure compensation for all of these brave individuals.
The City argued that it could not be sued for responding to the terrorist attacks, an act of war. The massive loss of life and equipment left it with little ability to protect rescue workers. The City also argued that the responders could not link their illnesses to the smoke and dust at the WTC Site. Our firm represented many of the first cases scheduled for trial, and we confronted these issues head on.
First, we defeated the City’s attempt to dismiss the cases, both at the trial court level and on appeal. Second, we retained leading experts, including one who began collecting and studying World Trade Center dust on September 11th, to prove the cause of our clients’ injuries. We also investigated the City’s program to provide responders with respiratory protection, questioning dozens of officials under oath and securing documents to establish our case.
In June 2010, as the trial date approached, serving as co-liaison counsel for the injured workers, we helped secure a $600 Million-plus settlement with the attorneys for the defendants (depending upon certain conditions being met, the settlement could pay out as much as $712 Million over the next several years).
Our World Trade Center work continues. With the passage of the James Zadroga Act, a reopened Victim Compensation Act, funded with $2.75 Billion, began accepting claims for compensation in early November 2011. We already represent over 900 claimants for this program. The program is anticipated to compensate asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, sinusitis, and other illnesses, and will conclude in 2016.