In a 99-page ruling, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of U.S. District Court in Manhattan said the city's protection by state and federal statutes is not universal, and litigation would have to be considered on a case-by-case basis, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
More than 8,000 emergency and construction workers have filed suit against the city and scores of its contractors who worked on the cleanup of the site.
The city had filed a motion to dismiss suits seeking damages for various illnesses that developed after workers were exposed to dust and hazardous materials when the towers fell after being rammed by hijacked aircraft.
Lawyer David Worby, who is leading the legal action on behalf of the workers, praised the ruling and told the Times after he informed some of his clients about it, they cried.
"It all started with people telling them what they had was just a cough and it's taken three years to prove that that was not true," Worby said.