Four years ago, Blawgletter wrote about a Second Circuit ruling that rejected claims by workers at Ground Zero for the harm that resulted from breathing toxic air in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. We said:
The Second Circuit yesterday affirmed dismissal of claims that the federal government deliberately misrepresented the safety of working at Ground Zero without respiratory equipment. The five plaintiffs performed search and rescue operations after the 911 attacks. They alleged that exposure to asbestos and other hazardous substances injured them or put them in reasonable fear of harm. The government's false statements exhibited deliberate indifference to their health and safety, they asserted, and constituted violation of their substantive due process rights under the Constitution. Lombardi v. Whitman, [485 F.3d 73] (2d Cir. 2007).
The court of appeals applied a "shock the conscience" standard to the complaint. The government's conduct didn't shock the "contemporary conscience" because, the court ruled, the Environmental Protection Agency director and other officials sought to "avoid panic, keep order, restore services, repair infrastructure, and preserve the economy" during a time of profound uncertainty and upheaval. That the officials could have protected these selfless people by providing them with respiratory equipment (or even telling them they needed it) didn't alter the court's conclusion.
Does the government's behavior shock you? It does Blawgletter. Instead of knowingly and falsely assuring brave men and women that the air at Ground Zero wouldn't harm them, the EPA director could easily have told them the truth. Blawgletter cannot imagine that knowledge of the truth would have diminished one whit the responders' devotion to their patriotic duty. The needless heaping of tragedy upon tragedy goes beyond stupidity. It indeed shocks the conscience.
Let us hope the government finds another way to take care of these intrepid souls.
[We don't know if the workers got any help with their injuries. Do you?]
Our April 2007 post included a Ground Zero photo from September 23, 2001. See it just below.
In May of this year, we visited a friend who works in an office near the foot of Manhattan. He took us up to the top floor of his building, and from there we took a photo of the rising One World Trade Center.
The area looked so different we hardly recognized it. We didn't realize until today, when we compared the photos for the first time, that you can see the same building on the right-hand side of both photos. And in the one below, just to the right of One World Trade Center, you can find the square footprint of one of the Twin Towers.
[To see photos, animations, and other information about the 9/11 Memorial, go here.]
What effect has 9/11 had on the law in America? How has the law improved? How has it gone the other way? And do we like the result?
What do you think, gentle reader?