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Michael Barasch



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Since my admission to the New York State Bar, I have worked exclusively for law firms representing seriously injured victims of accidents and medical malpractice. I learned how to try cases from some of the most talented trial attorneys in New York City. For the past 22 years, I have been asked to participate in Trial Technique courses for both law students and other lawyers. I am especially proud of my association with the Urban Justice Center. I have long supported its mission and have served on its Board of Directors since 1997. The Urban Justice Center is known for taking very difficult cases on behalf of battered women, runaway youths, the mentally ill, and the homeless people of New York. It fights for the poorest people of New York who have neither the resources nor wherewithal to navigate through our court systems. Our firm recovered $5.2 million in settlements on behalf of 200 elderly homeless people displaced when a crane fell on the Woodstock Hotel in Times Square in 1998.

After over a decade of trying major personal injury cases, I joined forces with Jim McGarry, one of my law school classmates. We have won hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of thousands of accident victims, many of them catastrophically injured. There is no more gratifying feeling than when a jury awards an amount of money that will change a client’s life forever. We have been lead counsel in several multi-plaintiff litigations.

I am especially proud of the work that we have done on behalf of injured New York City firefighters. Our firm has won many landmark decisions that have shaped the law on their behalf. After helping scores of firefighters receive awards in their individual cases, our firm was thrust into the legal problems of those killed and injured in the World Trade Center attacks. We represented the families of dozens of firefighters killed as well as over 1,000 first responders who sustained permanent respiratory illnesses from the toxic dust at the WTC site. Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein appointed me as liaison counsel on behalf of all rescue workers injured or killed. We worked closely with Kenneth Feinberg, the Special Master of the Victim Compensation Fund, to expand the rules of the Air Transportation Safety and Systems Stabilization Act. Once the injured rescue workers were permitted to make claims to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), we discontinued their pending cases in Federal Court and brought them all to the VCF. We appealed more than 400 initial awards and participated in hearings before Mr. Feinberg and Department of Justice attorneys and Administrative Court Judges. The VCF stopped accepting new claims on December 22, 2003. All payments were made by the middle of 2004.

Since the VCF closed, our law firm fought to reopen the VCF because so many of our clients continued to be diagnosed with new respiratory illnesses caused by the toxic dust, and/or they were found disabled after they had received an award for a non-disabling injury. We were delighted that in December 2010, Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 (Zadroga Act). In January 2011 President Obama signed it into law. The new Fund was named in honor of our client, NYPD Detective Jimmy Zadroga, who died of pulmonary disease in 2006. An autopsy confirmed that his lungs had been damaged by WTC toxins. This was concrete medical evidence that advocates could use to help convince Congress to reopen the VCF. As a result, $2.4 billion has been made available for medical care and $2.7 billion has been set aside for compensation to those whose health has gotten worse since 2003. Claimants must register by October 3, 2013 and the Fund is set to close in October, 2016. That is when Sheila Birnbaum, the Fund’s Special Master, is supposed to make final payments. We currently represent more than 5,000 sick first responders and residents.

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