The city recently settled lawsuits by 10,000 WTC workers, more than 600 of whom have developed cancer. But officials have so far insisted there is no scientific proof that Ground Zero smoke and dust caused cancer.
An FDNY spokesman gave a statement for Dr. Prezant, saying: ‘The study is ongoing, and no conclusions have been reached on whether cancer rates have increased for firefighters.’ But fire union bosses in New York have expressed their concern about the findings.
Al Hagan, head of the fire-officers union, told the New York Post: ‘I’m led to believe that the numbers for those cancers across all ranks in the Fire Department of people who worked at Ground Zero is up significantly, and we’re all very concerned about it, as are our families.’ Steve Cassidy, president of the firefighters union, said Ground Zero’s ‘toxic stew’ has proven lethal. He said: ‘It’s a fact that New York City firefighters are dying of cancer in record numbers. ‘We have buried 10 firefighters in just the last 15 weeks, seven with cancer. On Sept. 10, 2001, they were young, healthy firefighters.’
In 2007, doctors at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, which monitors World Trade Center rescue workers, noted blood cancers like multiple myeloma, which normally strikes in the 60s or 70s, were being found in relatively young officers.
The New York state Health Department has confirmed that 345 Ground Zero workers have died of various cancers as of June 2010.
Are these cancers all from toxins in the dust? You know what else causes high rates of cancer?
Every potential client considering a contingent fee agreement with a lawyer should first consider this story about a worker who spent hundreds of hours cleaning up the “ground zero” site in New York City after the 9/11/01 terror attacks. He was steered to a NY law firm which is handling 10,000 such claims, so he probably assumed they knew what they were doing. They twisted his arm to get him to accept a settlement for just $10K, all of which went to the firm’s fees, unitemized firm expenses, and paying back a small amount of his workman’s compensation benefits, leaving him, literally, with a check for $0.00, totally broke, and now diagnosed with life-threatening cancer:
CANCER-STRICKEN Ground Zero worker Edgar Galvis has finally received a compensation cheque – for zero dollars.
The man … was relieved to get a cheque in the mail for his court settlement with Merrill Lynch, whose offices he had cleaned.
But he was stunned when he saw the amount: $0.00.
His award had been $10,005, but his lawyers at the firm Worby, Groner, Edelman & Napoli Bern lopped off $2579 for unitemised legal expenses.
Then they took a 33.3 per cent fee of $2124. They also subtracted $352, a fee to the lawyer who referred him.
The remaining $4950 was withheld for unspecified “liens”, the letter says.
Mr Galvis thinks this was repayment of workers’ compensation for aid.
…”I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke.”…In May 2005, a friend gave him a business card passed out by the law firm. A representative came to his home.
“The man told me that more than likely I will get sick and I would get 60 per cent of whatever he won,” Mr Galvis said.
“He even mentioned the words ‘millions of dollars’.”
In April 2010, he got a $10,000 offer. A letter from the law firm said he could expect about $5000 after expenses and fees.
It warned that if his case went to trial and he lost, he could owe the firm up to $100,000 in costs.
He took the settlement. [Apparently the settlement was based on losing sleep and sinus problems, but then he was diagnosed with cancer, but the firm told him] it was “too late” to adjust his claim. [Sounds odd to me.]
The total Merrill settlement came to $18 million for about 400 clients, documents show.
Galvis is one of nearly 10,000 Ground Zero workers represented by Napoli Bern, which led talks for a separate settlement with the city for $712 million. A partner in the firm, Paul Napoli, did not respond to a request for comment.
Lawyers working on a contingent fee basis can’t make money spending lots of time on small claims, which is what they thought this was when they settled it. (There’s even a chance the expenses aren’t real, just another profit center.) Even though they knew the client might get sicker — they even predicted it — they sold him out, pressured him to settle, and apparently didn’t make any effort to amend or restart the proceedings to protect his interests once he got sicker. Settling for $10K, given his financial situation, even if he got to keep the whole $10K, wouldn’t solve any of his problems — but for the firm, assuming they spent little or no time on a matter, you can make $50 million if you make roughly $5K each on 10K cases.
A particularly dirty tactic was to threaten the client with an absurdly inflated amount for expenses to go to trial — not something they mentioned up front, apparently. The primary expense in this sort of case is usually expert medical testimony, but this shouldn’t cost anything close to $100K and it wouldn’t make sense for the firm to recommend settlement without already having an expert opinion. More reasonable contingent fee lawyers eat the expenses rather than bankrupt the clients they fail to help. (This is one of the firms that also earned international disdain for the amount of money they demanded for “legal fees” from the government fund created to help the first responders, etc., who took well over half the money — including payments to government lawyers — and didn’t try a single case. I gather they’ve been paid hundreds of millions of dollars and haven’t even come close to trying a single case.)
Lawyers doing contingent fee work often resort to the same sorts of tactics to woo clients that are used by used car salespeople and con men. This happens every day with many of the contingent fee mills. You need to shop around, make a record of what they tell you before and after you sign, and complain to the police and bar if you believe you’ve been taken advantage of.
In this case, the plaintiff’s lawyer rendered a far more valuable service to Merrill Lynch, which dodged a multi-million dollar bullet thanks to their opponent’s professional advisers. We’ll have to see whether the authorities in New York decide to step in — not likely based on their track record.
Australian Story: Cancer-stricken Ground Zero worker receives compensation cheque for 0$.