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A state civil defense law enacted in 1951 shields defendants from workplace injury suits by those who helped in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, an acting Supreme Court justice in Manhattan has ruled. Relying on the State Defense Emergency Act, Justice Michael D. Stallman dismissed four of 26 damage actions that were filed by workers injured during the cleanup of the site. Stallman limited the statute’s protection by dismissing those lawsuits that sought recoveries for injuries suffered before Sept. 29, 2001, the date the search for survivors officially ended. The statute, which is codified at Unconsolidated Law ��9191-9200, is broadly worded to protect most potential defendants from liability for work performed under “any law, any rule, regulation or order � relating to civil defense.” In Daly v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 122015/02, Stallman dismissed four suits asserting statutory tort claims under the state’s Labor Law against the Port Authority, New York City and as many as eight contractors and subcontractors involved in the cleanup effort. There was no statute or governmental order directing the performance of work at the Trade Center site, Stallman noted. Nonetheless, he concluded that a common law doctrine met the statutory requirement that the work be performed pursuant to “any law” related to civil defense. The common law doctrine — salus populi supreme lex — enshrines the notion that “the welfare of the people is the highest law,” Stallman wrote. “Because emergency measures must be performed swiftly during an attack and its immediate aftermath (e.g. attempts to rescue survivors, including debris removal required to do so, or to prevent collapse which would endanger others, or to open thoroughfares),” he ruled, salus populi amounts to “law … relating to civil defense” within the meaning of the 1951 law. Stallman rested his decision to limit the liability conferred by the statute to operations during the 18 days following the attacks on the definition of “civil defense” contained in �9103(5). Only the clearance of “essential” debris comes within the statute’s definition of civil defense, he noted. Any clearance work performed before Sept. 29, 2001, was essential, Stallman concluded, because it was “done in the rush of emergency: the imperative to locate and rescue anyone alive beneath the rubble.” Kevin and Lisa Daly, under whose names the other 25 cases were consolidated for the purposes of the ruling, were represented by Segan, Nemerov & Singer. New York City was represented by Mathew Maiorana, who was formerly an assistant corporation counsel Different groups of contractors and subcontractors were represented by Charles J. Seigel; Fabiani & Cohen; and Malapero & Prisco.

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