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Plaintiff Credibility Questioned in Advancing 9/11 Health Trials

Posted Feb 8, 2010 8:04 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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An Associated Press investigation of dozens of 9/11 ground zero worker cases being considered for trial in May found that several "contain inconsistent or exaggerated claims" about how workers became ill and how much time they spent at the site.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has whittled down the list of 9,000 legal claims against New York City to 30. Eventually, 12 will be selected for the first round of trials in which workers claim the city failed to protect them from poisonous World Trade Center ash.

The judge expects the outcome of these initial cases to provide a guide for future settlements. The AP notes that more than $1 billion in damages is at stake.

Among the cases examined by the AP is one involving a demolition worker who claims to have developed health problems after spending six months working in the World Trade Center ruins. But the AP says the man has been severely ill since the 1990s and noted that he never mentioned 9/11 in a previous medical malpractice case that claimed he was so sick between 2000 and 2003 that he couldn't work regularly.

In another case, the AP found that a now-deceased New Jersey police officer claimed to have logged 300 days handling debris at ground zero, a claim inconsistent with work records. While allegedly working at ground zero, the man was clocking in for full-time shifts in Cresskill, N.J., the AP investigation found.

Lawyers for the workers declined to discuss specifics with the AP, but assured the news agency that evidence will show that workers exposed to ground zero dust weren't given proper equipment and are now sick.

"These are cops and firemen and construction workers who were there for the city," David Worby is quoted saying. "There is no question anymore about whether they were sick, and how sick they are. There are tens of thousands of people who are sick. Not all are severely ill, but many of them are."

Indeed, the AP reports that there is growing scientific evidence that the toxic air at ground zero was harmful.

"Of the people exposed to the dust, 1 in 10 developed asthma within six years of the attacks, about triple the national rate. Firefighters have experienced unusual levels of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that affects the lungs," the AP reports.

Lawyers for the city and contractors maintain many of the claims are riddled with incorrect information or are exaggerated.

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