Appeals court tosses 9/11 firefighters suit
The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the families of firefighters who died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, cannot sue New York City or Motorola over alleged radio failures because they filed claims with the Victim Compensation Fund established by Congress.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein dismissed the suit last year on the same grounds. However, last month, the families of nine city firefighters who died on 9/11 asked the Second Circuit appeals court to review Hellerstein’s decision.
Motorola was guarded in its response. “Sept 11 was a horrible and tragic day, and our hearts go out to those who lost family members and loved ones,” said Motorola spokesman Jeff Madsen. “Our comment on this particular ruling is that it speaks for itself.” Madsen noted that given the “emotionally charged” nature of the case, “this might not be the end, as far as the families are concerned.”
In the suit, the families claimed that the firefighters were unable to hear orders to evacuate the World Trade Center before it collapsed because the fire department radio system the city purchased from Motorola was faulty. They further alleged that the city and Motorola both were aware of the problems and didn’t do enough to fix them.
The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a draft report last month that indicated a New York City Fire Department repeater manufactured by Motorola and located in the World Trade Center’s north tower worked properly on 9/11.
The report further said that the fire department’s command-and-control “was seriously affected” by inadequate information sharing between responding agencies. NIST is expected to issue its final report next month.