Court okays BPCA lawsuit on 9/11 illnesses

NYPD
The clouds of toxic dust that enveloped Battery Park City and the rest of Downtown after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in the 9/11 attacks sickened many workers who worked through the arduous cleanup. Now a federal court has cleared the way for cleanup workers to sue the Battery Park City Authority for damages despite the expiration of the statute of limitations.

BY COLIN MIXSON

A federal court gave workers with 9/11-related illnesses approval to move forward with their case against the Battery Park City Authority on June 6, which they claim failed to ensure their safety as they labored amid the attack’s toxic fallout.

The plaintiffs include 18 laborers, who worked with insufficient or nonexistent protection against the carcinogenic cocktail of vaporized glass, cellulose, asbestos, and other nasty substances as members of environmental cleanup outfits sub-contracted to clear dust and debris from buildings in Battery Park City following the attack.

Because the Battery Park City Authority owns the land those buildings stand on, the public corporation is also responsible for ensuring the health and wellbeing of those who labor there, according to lawyer for the workers.

“Under New York State labor law, a land owner has a responsibility, similar to the owner of a building, to provide for the safety of a person who comes onto their land,” said attorney Robert Grochow.

But because statute of limitations for public entities such as the Battery Park City Authority is so brief, the workers had to wait for state legislators to pass “Jimmy Nolan’s Law” in 2009, which gave all such claims against state and city agencies a one-year grace period to file suit.

The Authority challenged the law as unconstitutional, and U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein agreed in 2014, calling the law an “extreme exercise of legislative power.”

The June 6 decision by the Second Circuit Court, however, ruled that, as a public entity, the Battery Park City Authority has no standing to challenge the state on matters of constitutionality.

The original lawsuit is now technically headed to trial, but will most likely end in a settlement for the workers, according to Crochow.

“We can go back and try the case against BPCA, but I would imagine there’s going to be a discussion to try and settle it,” the lawyer said.

The attorney couldn’t say how much money in compensation his clients could expect to receive from the Authority, saying it depended on their illnesses and cost of treatment, but suggested it could be in the hundreds of thousands each.

A spokesman for the Battery Park City Authority declined to comment on pending litigation.

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