Ground Zero ‘Cleanup’: 9/11 Attorneys Pocketing Over $400M
(SUSAN EDELMAN) Attorneys for both the city and Ground Zero workers will reap more than $400 million combined — with the law firm for most of the sick 9/11 workers expected to be paid at least $210.4 million, a Post review found.
The mega-fees are rolling in to Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, a law partnership that represents about 90 percent of the 10,500 cops, firefighters, hardhats and other 9/11 responders in a $637.5 million settlement with the city. The firm also signed deals worth $123 million with the Port Authority and five other entities.
Seven years ago, the firm faced off against lawyers for the city led by powerful firm Patton Boggs over a $1 billion federal fund to pay claims from the WTC cleanup. The defense tab has topped $200 million, with lawyers billing at rates up to $585 an hour.
“It’s atrocious,” said John Walcott, a retired NYPD detective with leukemia, who was the first to join the 9/11 suit, but bailed out of the settlement in disgust. “People are losing homes, sick and dying. The lawyers are just getting wealthier.”
The lawyers’ haul came under scrutiny last week when The Post reported that Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern took $5,050 from office cleaner Edgar Galvis’s $10,005 settlement with Merrill Lynch, including a 33.33 percent fee. The rest went to pay off Workers Compensation liens, the firm said. It sent Galvis a check for $0.00.
The Queens immigrant, 51, who has throat cancer, has a pending city claim, but that payout would be minimal because less than 25 percent of his work was in city offices.
Partner Paul Napoli on Friday called The Post’s estimate of his firm’s share “wrong,” but defended its take, saying, “The firm and its employees have devoted overwhelming amounts of time and effort to the litigation.”
Napoli also said his firm gave up $85 million in additional earnings. It agreed to drop its fee from 33.33 percent to 25 percent in the city and in five other cases — but only after Manhattan federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein blasted an earlier proposal as too lavish for the lawyers. The firm also waived its fee for a $23.4 million cancer-insurance policy for workers.
The law firm’s 9/11 income is still dwarfed by the estimated $350 million Napoli and partner Marc Bern previously bagged in a $1 billion settlement for thousands of clients claiming heart injuries from the diet drug Fen-phen.
Napoli and Bern later joined White Plains lawyer David Worby, who was first approached by ailing detective Walcott, to launch the 9/11 case in 2004. They advertised heavily and recruited workers in union halls.
“I am just glad a majority of my clients recognize the good work we have done,” Napoli said.
But ailing responders have told The Post that the firm was impersonal, botched paperwork, that the lawyers were inaccessible, and that Napoli was a bully in disputes. Many say they’re getting much less money than the firm had led them to expect.
“I got screwed — big-time,” one said.