find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Aussie lawyers resolve 9/11 litigation

Aussie lawyers resolve 9/11 litigation

Two Australian lawyers have played a leading role in the resolution of one of the USA's largest ever mass tort litigations arising from the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.Following…

Two Australian lawyers have played a leading role in the resolution of one of the USA's largest ever mass tort litigations arising from the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

Following the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, around 90,000 people assisted in the rescue effort and the massive clean-up which followed. Of those 90,000, many were employees of contractors, such as Bovis Lend Lease, which had responded to the New York Mayor's call to action.

In the years to follow, more than 10,000 people involved in the first response and clean-up claimed to have been injured or have fallen ill, most as a direct result of exposure to toxic substances.

Many workers claimed that their employers had not provided appropriate equipment or supervision as they worked amongst the ruins of "the pile".

However, under previously existing laws, injured workers could only seek to recover for their injuries by suing the contractors and the City of New York and as such, class actions seeking over $10 billion in compensation were commenced in 2003.

Freehills lawyers Michael Mills and Michelle Fox, acting for Bovis Lend Lease (Bovis), worked in conjunction with US firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges to reach a settlement for the 10,000 plaintiffs, as well as 8,000 plaintiffs who made spousal claims.

This was achieved through a legislative strategy which sought to avoid large-scale litigation, which was seen by many as the pitting of "heroes against heroes", and provide a fair settlement figure for plaintiffs.

"There was a fair bit of emphasis [on] finding resolution strategies for such a massive piece of litigation, with 18,000 plaintiffs running through court," said Mills.

"As the judge correctly said, this meant that the grandchildren of everybody in court were going to be the first people to ever benefit from the litigation, apart from the lawyers present."

A legislative strategy was thus put forward which would indemnify contractors, such as Bovis, as well compensate those individuals who became injured or ill due to their involvement.

The result was the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which, after more than five years of preparation and 13 months of settlement negotiations on the part of Mills and Fox, was signed into law by US President Barack Obama in January.

The Act, which received broad bipartisan support, provides for the allocation of $4.3 billion of aid to September 11 survivors and first responders, and provides protections for the various contractor companies, including Bovis, which responded to the civil emergency.

Both Mills and Fox say that working on the case, which received widespread media coverage in the US, was a career highlight.

"You rarely have a government body like the US Congress interested or remotely engaged in litigation of this nature and a problem of this nature," said Fox.

"Because it was 9/11 and because it had affected so many people, you did have political interest. To be able to be involved in that and watch that whole process from the vantage point we had, and for that legislation to have passed, was a real rare event, a real highlight."

Mills agrees: "The people who volunteered to work on the site were heroes, the companies that responded to a call for help ... were heroes too. In other words, this is a matter that should never have gone to litigation. To have played a part in getting it successfully resolved ... is very satisfying."

Working on the matter required a huge effort on the part of Mills and Fox, who racked up 32 trips to New York within a five-year period and spent many early mornings and weekends engaged in teleconferences with US lawyers.

"The travelling definitely took a toll on our families ... it was hard," said Mills.

"But we made some very good friends in New York and it was a fascinating matter ... it was a really big case and just fantastic to be involved in it."

Claire Chaffey

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Aussie lawyers resolve 9/11 litigation
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Oct 23 2017
Lawyers slam rushed consultation for SA repeat offenders bill
The Law Society of South Australia has expressed concern for a proposal to roll out new laws amendin...
Oct 23 2017
The pursuit of happiness in the law
A panel of legal experts have explored how to define success in the legal profession, and how lawyer...
Queensland University of Technology, ruby milestone
Oct 23 2017
Queensland law school reaches ruby milestone
Celebrating 40 years since establishing a law course in 1977, the Queensland University of Technolog...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...