9/11 health cases still months from trial

Feb. 22, 2009 at 12:36 PM

NEW YORK, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The sickest workers claiming ailments caused by the cleanup of the World Trade Center will be the first to have their cases heard in court, a U.S. judge says.

The first 30 trials are to begin May 17, 2010, said U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein.

"Their cases deserved to be tried first, for if they were to prevail, they have the greatest need for a monetary recovery," said Hellerstein, who is overseeing 9,090 individual lawsuits by construction workers, firefighters, police and others claiming injuries from the rescue and cleanup of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Settlements or verdicts in the first 30 cases will point the way for hundreds of other plaintiffs to settle their cases without enduring years of legal delays, Hellerstein said.

The plaintiffs allege exposure to toxic materials caused their illnesses. They contend the city and World Trade Center contractors failed to protect them, the New York Post reported Sunday.

More than $200 million of the $1 billion allocated by Congress to cover the claims has been lost in bond investments or has gone to pay administrative overhead and legal costs, the Post reported.

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