NY Opens Window for State Court Filings of 9-11 Injury Lawsuits

People who were injured by exposure to asbestos and other toxic materials during rescue and clean-up efforts following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City, but failed to meet lawsuit filing deadlines, have been given a new chance to seek compensation for their injuries.

Gov. David A. Paterson recently signed into law a bill that opens a one-year window in state courts for the filing of cases which would otherwise be barred by statutes of limitation. The law, General Municipal Law section 50-1, gives plaintiffs 90 days to file a notice of claim against a municipal defendant, according to a report in the New York Law Journal. The clock starts running on the lawsuits on the date of the injury or from the time when victims knew or reasonably should have known that they were injured. Injured parties may also ask for a one-year extension to file their suits after the 90 days have expired.

Thousands of Lawsuits Given New Life

About 11,000 former workers have filed lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries before Southern District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein. The judge recently dismissed more than 700 of the cases brought by recovery workers against New York City and the Battery Park City Authority because the cases were not filed in a timely matter. Another 3,000 cases faced possible dismissal on similar grounds.

The new law, which took effect Sept. 16, will revive those dismissed suits and give plaintiffs more time to bring their legal claims.

Police officers, fire fighters, and other emergency first responders as well as workers hired to clear the rubble of the World Trade Center and other buildings following the attacks have reported developing mesothelioma, the cancer linked to exposure to asbestos, as well as a variety of other cancers, lung problems, and other medical complications.

Workers injured at the World Trade Center site as well as the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where much of the building rubble was taken and sorted, and the city morgue where victims were stored also are covered by the extended filing period, officials said.

Critics Assail Costs of New Law

Critics, most notably New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said the law extending the legal rights of thousands of injured 9-11 rescue and clean up workers will cost the city “hundreds of millions” of dollars in damages, the Journal reported.

“The implications of this legislation to the City budget are dire and hard to overstate,” the city’s chief Albany lobbyist, Michelle Goldstein, said in an Aug. 14 memo to Paterson urging him to veto the law.

Members of Bloomberg’s administration are lobbying for Congress to reopen the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which was closed in 2004 after paying out $7 billion to the families or 9-11 victims.

‘Jimmy Nolan’s Law’ Earns Passage

The new regulations have been dubbed “Jimmy Nolan’s Law” in honor of the Yonkers carpenter who rushed to help rescue efforts at the World Trade Center after the attacks. Nolan reportedly slept at the site for three weeks and later developed skin allergies and lung complications, only to have his legal claim stalled because of missed filing deadlines.

Nolan’s suit is among those given new life by the new law.

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