The New York Times quotes my testimony to the hearing on H.R. 847.
Unfortunately, the story incorrectly refers to AEI as a “lobbying organization,” which it is definitively not. It is unimaginable how the Times could have made this mistake, given that just three weeks ago, they had to correct an identical mistake; the senior editor has promised me a correction.
I just got to the September 15 issue near the bottom of my pile of unread mail, and there’s an excellent piece of reporting by Jennifer Kahn on the case of James Zadroga, the police officer who worked at Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11 whose death was attributed to exposure to dust and was a symbol for the thousands of plaintiffs in that litigation–until the New York medical examiner found evidence that prescription drug injections were responsible for the lung scarring. Kahn’s article is tremendously damning on that question. Zadroga’s name was successfully used to get legislation passed in New York state, and similar legislation (on which I testified) is pending in Congress to open the taxpayer fisc to thousands of questionable claims.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee posed additional questions to me about my congressional testimony on the legislation to expand the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to cover Ground Zero dust litigation and “psychological injury.” I have posted my answers on line.
Watch what you say about lawyers dept.: The high-profile mass tort firm of Napoli Bern Ripka and Associates LLP recently filed a defamation suit in Suffolk County, N.Y. against ex-client Scott Spielberg, a former cab driver who lives in Nevada.
The firm claims that Mr. Spielberg defamed the firm when he wrote to the office of the Manhattan district attorney asking prosecutors to open an investigation into what Mr. Spielberg alleges is the firm’s mishandling of earlier litigation involving the diet drug fen-phen.
The lawsuit also claims that Mr. Spielberg slandered the firm in conversations he had with a New York Times reporter, Anthony DePalma, who wrote a lengthy article about the involvement of a name partner at the firm, Paul Napoli, in the fen-phen litigation.
Yet, Mr. DePalma’s article doesn’t quote Mr. Spielberg or mention him at all. Napoli Bern is representing the vast majority of thousands of ground zero workers in their suits alleging that the city failed to protect them from toxins at the site that have caused respiratory and other illnesses. …
“They don’t want me to be able to talk to the press or law enforcement,” Mr. Spielberg said of the suit against him.
(Joseph Goldstein, “Seeking To Cut Off Criticism, Law Firm Sues Former Client”, New York Sun, Jun. 6).
The hearing is now on-line (I’m at the 55:18 mark; Maxine Waters is at the 2:10:20 mark), as is my written testimony.
Things I should’ve said: that a dictator did a good job in the past hardly means that a dictatorship is a good idea, even if you can reappoint the same dictator. But one can be dumbfounded by the stupidity of some questions.
Earlier: April 1 and March 31.
Speaking of Ground Zero dust lawsuits, I will be testifying Tuesday morning about H.R. 3543‘s proposal to reopen the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund to potentially hundreds of thousands of new claimants.
(Bumped Tuesday with SSRN link to testimony.)
In Sunday’s Times reporter Anthony DePalma takes a much-needed look at attorney Paul Napoli and his Napoli Bern law firm, which is now representing thousands of plaintiffs claiming injury from 9/11 dust inhalation and before that made its name in the fen-phen litigation. Among the controversies that have trailed it to the present day from that affair: charges that it divvied up settlements in a way favorable to its own fee interests, and that it used unreliable “echo mill” expert reports from echocardiologists attesting injury to fen-phen claimants. Prof. Lester Brickman, friend of this site, is quoted extensively. See our extensive earlier coverage at Overlawyered: Dec. 16, 2002, Sept. 21, 2003, etc. (echo mills); Dec. 28, 2001, Feb. 14, 2005, and Mar. 29, 2007 (settlement practices); Feb. 25, 2008 (broad net cast in 9/11 suits)(cross-posted from Point of Law).
Ramon Gilsanz, a structural engineer with a small office in Manhattan, showed up at the World Trade Center site to pitch in after the disaster; like many others, he started as a volunteer and found his role evolving into a subcontractor at the city’s request. Now, like about 130 other structural engineers, he is named in many of 8,000 lawsuits filed by the Paul Napoli firm and others over dust exposure to various bystanders. He and another structural engineer said they worked alongside the other rescue and cleanup workers and were never assigned responsibility for air quality. (Jim Dwyer, “For Engineer, a Cloud of Litigation After 9/11″, New York Times, Feb. 23).
New York City police officer Cesar Borja died tragically young of lung disease last month. Advocacy groups (including a website that regularly accuses tort reformers of using oversimplified “pop” anecdotes) and Senator Clinton pushed his story to the media to promote a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer giveaway program (that, not incidentally, would provide contingent fees for attorneys) by claiming that Borja was sickened as a hero working “fourteen-hour days in the smoldering pit”, and was killed by alleged government lies about the safety of the air (though the government did call for respirators that they admitted Borja didn’t wear) and the media bought it in front-page tabloid stories. (That same website has been promising since it started to link “Ground Zero workers’ challenges to a larger critique of the tort reform movement”, but has yet to formally justify that non sequitur.)
Except more facts are coming to light about Borja, and as the New York Times reports, “very few of the most dramatic aspects of Officer Borja’s powerful story appear to be fully accurate”:
- On September 11, Borja reported for duty… at the tow pound in Queens where he spent most of his career.
- Borja did not work near the site until December 24, 2001, “after substantial parts of the site had been cleared and the fire in the remaining pile had been declared out.”
- Borja thus never worked in the smoldering pit.
- Borja never worked a 14-hour shift; rather, he worked a few shifts for a total of 17 days directing traffic to add to his overtime pay, most of which were in March and April 2002, and all blocks away from Ground Zero.
- Borja smoked a pack a day until the mid-1990s.
Of course, evidence may yet arise linking Borja’s death to his work near the site. The New York Police Department and doctors, however, have yet to do so. (Sewell Chan and Al Baker, “Weeks After a Death, Twists in Some 9/11 Details”, New York Times, Feb. 13). About 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis each year; the fatal disease has no cure.
Update: David Nieporent has an amusing comment about Bizarro-Overlawyered’s shameless reaction to the revelation.
The post David responds to makes the mistake of making clear its political motivations for exaggerating health hazards from Ground Zero cleanup: a partisan smear of possible Republican presidential nominee Rudy Giuliani.