Tag Archives: cancer

Action Needed To Ensure Sick 9/11 First Responders Receive Benefits

Animal Control Officer Diane DiGiacomo

A couple weeks ago, the Workers’ Compensation community was stunned over the outcome of the case of Animal Control Officer Diane DiGiacomo who developed cancer from exposure to toxins in the air after 9/11. Diane’s job was to search for and rescue pets near Ground Zero when many of the buildings surrounding the area were either evacuated or abandoned for weeks after the terrorist attack. 

Diane had filed a Workers’ Compensation claim after being diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. The judge ruled that she was not entitled to New York State Workers’ Compensation benefits because she had not filed a timely claim. At the time of the ruling, Diane was bedridden and weighed a mere 60 pounds. Tragically, four days after the decision, she died as a result of her cancer. While my firm did not represent her, Diane’s tragic story touched many of us in the industry, whether as advocates for the injured worker or as defense counsel. What makes this case particularly sad is that the judge noted it was clear from the medical evidence that the cancer developed at least in part due to her exposure to the toxins in the air. Unfortunately, Diane was not entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits because the deadline to register had passed.   

In order to be able to obtain Workers’ Compensation benefits for exposure after the 9/11 attacks, those who participated in the rescue, recovery, and clean up operations had to file a TWC-12 registration form prior to the current deadline of September 11, 2014. You did not have to actually be sick to file this form, but it preserved your rights if you worked in the area to file a claim later if you were found to be sick. It should be noted that the deadline has been extended twice because many of the illnesses such as cancer are slow starting and do not manifest themselves until many years after final exposure to toxins. The New York State Legislature has not extended this deadline again, at least as of this date.  

Officer DiGiacomo did not file her claim until sometime after September 11, 2014, because she was not actually diagnosed with cancer until after this date. According to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board website, as of September 11, 2011, there were close to 49,000 WTC- 12 forms filed; however, hundreds or even thousands more may have been at the site doing rescue, recovery, and clean up and have not registered precisely because they were not sick as of the deadline or they didn’t know they had 9/11-related medical conditions. Perhaps it was based on their lack of understanding of the law or the opinion of some that they did not want to register because they somehow felt they would be taking benefits away from those who were already ill. Whatever the reason, it is imperative that the deadline once again be extended so that those who are currently ill, or become ill, have the full protection of the law.  

A bill introduced in the New York State Assembly by Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate, Jr., and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder to extend the deadline to September 11, 2017, is still sitting in Committee. While Officer DiGiacomo did not live long enough to see the deadline extended, it is not too late to compensate her son and the rest of her family. Let’s make sure that those who helped get our city back on its feet are not forgotten.


Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

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Giving Back At The Howard Beach Relay For Life

In late June, attorneys and staff from Pasternack, Tilker, Ziegler, Walsh, Stanton & Romano LLP had the honor of participating in the Howard Beach Relay for Life. In addition to attending the event, we raised over $2,000 for the American Cancer Society.

We would like to give special thanks to our attorneys and staff and to their families who organized our tent and refreshments and who walked in the relay. Our participation, like the battle against cancer, is a group effort.

We were so excited by the grass-roots commitment to this event that we have already volunteered to co-chair next years’ Relay. We hope to see you there!

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Join Us In Supporting Cancer Research At The Relay For Life On June 7-8

I started writing to impart vital information to readers about Workers’ Compensation. As a practitioner in this field for almost 25 years, I want to provide guidance on procedure, insight to those who have been trying to maneuver within the system, and knowledge about benefits injured workers may be  entitled to if they get hurt on the job. 

In this post I will veer off topic to tell you about a very important event coming up next month – the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at Charles Park in Howard Beach on June 7-8 starting at 6:00 p.m. I am proud to say that my law firm – Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP – is one of the proud sponsors of this event.   

I am sure that anyone reading this column has been either personally affected by cancer or knows of someone who has been. We have shared the fear, the shock, the anger and the determination of those who have been diagnosed with this disease. We have shared the tears – and in some instances the final acceptance – with loved ones that their personal fight was too big to win. The Relay for Life helps raise funds and awareness to save lives from cancer. It is a way for us to remember those who have lost their personal battle, to celebrate those who have survived, and to fight back against the disease that has affected us all.  

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the United States – accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths. In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 newly diagnosed cancer cases, and 585,720 cancer deaths in the United States. Needless to say, these statistics are staggering. We as a community need to pull together to help prevent any further unnecessary deaths. The Relay for Life is one event that allows our friends and families to get together for the common goal of raising money to fight cancer in a way that will be fun. We can share experiences with each other while having a sense of camaraderie. 

Here is the link – http://www.relayforlife.org/. Come join a team or create your own. If you don’t want to walk, you can be a volunteer to set up, coordinate, or clean up. If you can’t walk or attend, then please consider making a donation. You can dedicate a Luminaria bag — which can be personalized with a name, photo, message or drawing and are illuminated after dark – in memory or honor of a friend or loved one at the Relay for Life.   

The good news is that there are more than 14 million cancer survivors. The goal is to reduce the number of those who are diagnosed with cancer in the first place. Whatever role you choose to play in this fight is up to you, but this event shows that you don’t have to engage in the fight alone. You will meet people who have been caregivers and those who are survivors. We will meet as strangers, but leave as comrades in the fight against cancer.     


Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

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Are Firefighter Cancer Deaths an Occupational Disease?

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Workers’ compensation has provided benefits or coverage for occupational diseases for generations. Occupational disease is defined by Nebraska law as: “a disease which is due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process, or employment and excludes all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed.” This is a typical definition of an occupational disease. Some examples of recognized occupational diseases are black lung disease for miners, mesothelioma for asbestos workers, lung disease for rubber workers, and leukemia for workers exposed to benzene.  

More studies are done to determine the cause of diseases as medical science advances. A recent study concludes that smoke and chemical exposure by firefighters may cause higher rates of cancer among firefighters. Firefighters, while usually healthier than the general population, have a higher incidence of cancer. More studies need to be done to determine if the peculiar exposure to smoke causes or aggravates cancer.

As medicine and science evolve, there may be more recognized “occupational diseases” and more workers and their families compensated for harm caused by the workplace.

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The Toxic Cloud Over the US EPA

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman, from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

Chromium IV is a deadly cancer causing substance. In September 2010 the scientists came to the conclusion that even a small amount of the chemical compound found in drinking water could be fatal if consumed. Today the PBS NEWSHOUR airs a documentary, EPA Contaminated by Conflict of Interest,  on how the chemical Industry is quietly delaying implementation of regulation of Chromium IV.

The compound, hexavalent chromium, gained infamy in the Oscar-winning film Erin Brockovich, based on the David-vs.-Goliath legal duel between desert dwellers in Hinkley, Calif., and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The film ends in Hollywood fashion, with the corporate polluter paying $333 million to people suffering from illnesses.

Companies with a stake in chromium have borrowed from the Big Tobacco playbook, 
using science to create doubt.

But in real life, the drama continues. More than 70 million Americans drink traces of chromium every day, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization.


TOXIC INFLUENCE is an ongoing series of reports exploring the nexus between industry, science and policy. This story is being produced in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity.

Jon L.Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.
Read more about Chromium IV and Workers’ Compensation
Oct 25, 2012
Areas underneath the building, located at 125 Clark Street, are contaminated with hexavalent chromium that is reaching the basements of some area residences and businesses through the ground water. The EPA continues …
Oct 03, 2009
The US Department of Defense has announced that it will investigate emerging environmental and health risks arising from chemical exposures. One of the particular areas of concern is the exposure to hexavalent chromium …
Jun 09, 2009
Soldiers who have been exposed to hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen, have filed suit against a government contractor. The present and former soldiers have brought a claims against KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root), …
Jul 10, 2009
Hexavalent chromium [Chromium (VI) [hexavalent chromium or Cr(VI)]”means chromium with a valence of positive six, inany form and in any compound.] has been added to the list of air contaminants whose concentrations …
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9/11 Rescue Workers At Increased Risk for Cancer

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey. If you think you have a Zadroga Bill or other 9/11-related claim, please contact our office for a free consultation.

Rescue and recovery workers at the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack site have been reported to be at greater risk of certain cancers. The study followed a group of workers who have been exposed to toxic dust and fumes following the attack in New York City.

The study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported an increased incidence of prostate and thyroid cancers, plus multiple myeloma.

Benefits are available under The Zadroga 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund Benefit Program.  The law was enacted by the US Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama about 3 years ago.


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Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer (On The Job)?

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer.

Today’s post comes to us from Thomas Domer of Wisconsin.  New York’s standard for an occupational disease claim is very similar to Wisconsin’s in that  an occupational disease must be caused by a recognizable link to the employee’s occupation. The harmful condition (cancer here) must have been caused by some aspect of the employment to be compensable.

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer. Italy’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling linking a business executive’s brain tumor and excessive mobile phone use. While much of the scientific opinion generally suggests there is not enough evidence to declare such a link, those studies were co-financed by the same companies that produce mobile telephones. The evidence in the Italian case was based on studies conducted between 2005 and 2009 by a group led by Dr. Lennart Hardell, cancer specialist at the University Hospital in Orebro in Sweden. The Italian court, relying on this research, noted this was independent research unlike other research financed by mobile telephone companies. The business executive Innocenzo Marcolini developed a tumor in the left side of his head after using his mobile telephone for 5 to 6 hours a day for a dozen years. He usually held the phone in his left hand while taking notes with his right hand.  He developed a “neurinoma” which affected his cranial nerve, and sought worker’s compensation from the Italian Worker’s Compensation Authority. The initial application was rejected because of a lack of proof but a court in Brescia later ruled there was a causal link between the use of mobile and cordless telephones and tumors.

Wisconsin provides benefits for an employee’s death or disability due to a cancerous condition if causally related to work exposure to carcinogens. There are numerous potential cancer causing agents in the workplace, but none so far have been linked to cell phone use. The causation standard is straightforward in Wisconsin. If the patient suffers from a condition caused by an “appreciable period of workplace exposure” the physicians are asked whether that exposure was either the sole cause of the condition or at least a material, contributory, causative factor in the condition’s onset or progression. This Italian court case suggests a further inquiry into the subject may be appropriate.

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