MANHATTAN (CN) - World Trade Center cleanup workers who answered "none" when asked them about their "diagnosed" injuries can still seek compensation for ailments their doctors have not identified, the 2nd Circuit ruled Thursday.
The court's unanimous decision reinstates 211 plaintiffs in litigation involving the thousands who participated in rescue, recovery and cleanup operations after the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein had thrown out their cases based on their responses to an ambiguous questionnaire, according to the ruling.
"The use of the word 'diagnosed' in the interrogatory created some ambiguity," Judge Denny Chin wrote for the three-judge panel. "It was possible that a plaintiff manifested symptoms of a condition, illness, or disease that had not yet been diagnosed when he answered the interrogatory. Indeed, claims arising from exposure to toxic or harmful substances often present nuanced and fact-specific questions as to whether and when a legally cognizable injury exists."
In one case, a man testified that he suffered from a "chronic cough, dyspnea and an optic problem," the 27-page opinion states.
"His symptoms included, among other things, chest tightness, cough, eye-irritation, fatigue, and shortness of breath," Chin wrote. "He visited a hospital several times for his injuries and alleged that a physician connected two of his injuries to his WTC work."
Another man complaining of "respiratory problems" swore to feeling "dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath," but his physician did not provide him with a diagnosis, the court found.
Chin called the trial court's decision to dismiss their cases without investigation "premature."
Hellerstein must review such cases on an individual basis on remand.
Lawyers for both parties did not immediately respond to a request for comment.