Wednesday, September 17, 2008
At a status conference yesterday, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected objections by NYC to the use of a "severity chart" in the 9/11 respiratory illness cases. As reported by the New York Law Journal (via law.com), Special Masters James A. Henderson (Cornell) and Aaron D. Twerski (Brooklyn) prepared the chart to provide "what they term a 'snapshot' of the most serious injuries and diseases."
Hellerstein said he hoped the severity chart would help him establish priorities and find a way forward in litigation that threatens to extend for years. The chart would be the first step toward unearthing "bellwether" cases that could be tried or used as the basis for settlement talks.
The judge defended his method of measuring the severity of claimed illness while conceding the chart does not measure causation, including whether the dust at the World Trade Center site was responsible or whether other factors, such as smoking, played a role.
Causation and other issues, he said, would be the subject of the next phase of the massive litigation -- the building of a database that could bring some clarity and allow the court to group the cases into logical categories.