30 Firefighters Among 600 Lawsuits Filed in 9/11 Toxic Air

The city Law Department reported that it was defending suits filed by 125 employees - including 35 sanitation employees, 30 firefighters, 15 cops, 13 barge operators and 10 construction workers, said Gary Shaffer, deputy chief of the World Trade Center...


The city Law Department reported that it was defending suits filed by 125 employees - including 35 sanitation employees, 30 firefighters, 15 cops, 13 barge operators and 10 construction workers, said Gary Shaffer, deputy chief of the World Trade Center unit.February 14, 2005 -- The courts are getting bombed with paper - thanks to Osama bin Laden.

Sick Ground Zero workers have buried New York City and operators of the toppled World Trade Center with a blizzard of 600 new federal negligence lawsuits since Feb. 1 - more than doubling the number of toxic tort cases filed since the 9/11 attacks 31/2 years ago, The Post has learned.

A major city law firm filed the 600 cases in Manhattan federal court to avoid paying a higher filing fee, which jumped from $150 to $250 on Feb. 4.

But the litigation frenzy has just begun.

Thousands of additional cases will be filed over the next several months, said Marc Jay Bern, a senior partner at Napoli & Bern.

His firm has joined forces with Worby Groner Edelman in representing the vast majority of cops, firefighters, sanitation, utility and construction workers who participated in the Ground Zero cleanup.

"Total damages could be in the billions of dollars," Bern said.

These workers and volunteers claim they've become ill from breathing toxins at the site. They did not receive money from the Victim Compensation Fund set up for 9/11 victims.

The suits charge the city, Silverstein Properties - the operator of the World Trade Center - and construction firms that oversaw the cleanup with failing to provide workers with proper respiratory gear to minimize exposure to the foul dust and air.

"This is a tragedy that didn't just murder 3,000 people in the towers [and planes and the Pentagon], but affected tens of thousands of volunteers, police officers, firefighters and other workers. These people were exposed to a toxic cocktail never known to mankind," Bern said.

The 600 suits swamped the clerk's office of Manhattan federal court, which is working on overdrive to file all the cases.

The city Law Department reported that it was defending suits filed by 125 employees - including 35 sanitation employees, 30 firefighters, 15 cops, 13 barge operators and 10 construction workers, said Gary Shaffer, deputy chief of the World Trade Center unit.

He said the city plans to move to dismiss many of the cases by invoking the New York State Defense Emergency Act, arguing the law makes the city immune from liability when it responded to the 9/11 attacks.