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ASPCA Officer with Terminal 9/11-Related Cancer Dies Four Days After State Judge Denies Her Workers’ Comp Claim

Diane DiGiacomo, an ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Officer who spent months saving animals abandoned near Ground Zero following the 9/11 attacks, died on November 20, at age 52, of breast cancer.  Her death came four days after a state judge denied her workers’ comp claim for 9/11-related cancer, according to the New York Daily News. The mother of three spent three months in the shadow of Ground Zero saving cats and dogs abandoned in nearby apartments. She developed aggressive breast cancer that spread to her bones and brain and eventually claimed her life.

In denying DiGiacomo’s claim, Judge Marc Grodsky’s ruling and reasoning left many scratching their heads. The judge conceded there is “no dispute in the medical evidence” that DiGiacomo’s cancer has a causal connection to the toxic fumes at the World Trade Center site. Nevertheless, the judge concluded DiGiacomo was not suffering from an “occupational illness,” because exposure did not arise from the “nature” of her work, but rather from “an environmental condition specific to the place of work.” Thus, in the opinion of the court, “If [DiGiacomo] had been doing her job in a different area, there would be no exposure.”

Naturally, DiGiacomo’s attorney, Sean Riordan, saw the case differently. “It is the nature of her employment to respond to emergencies and save and rescue animals. The judge’s finding to the contrary is outrageous and a stretch.” Adding fuel to the outrage many observers felt was Judge Grodsky’s statement that if DiGiacomo had filed Zadroga Act paperwork before the September 11, 2014 deadline, she would have been protected with benefits under the World Trade Center Health Program. Unfortunately, DiGiacomo’s cancer diagnosis came after that deadline.

DiGiacomo’s case highlights the importance of Congress passing an extension of the Zadroga Act so that other victims of 9/11-related diseases are not denied the benefits they deserve. Ms. DiGiacomo spent the last days of her life imploring Congress to renew the act. According to her brother Paul, vice president of the NYPD Detectives Endowment Association, “I feel she had a purpose. She had to get the message out before she left her loved ones.”

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness, learn your rights. Call Barasch & McGarry at 888-351-9421 or contact our office online.

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    There is still time to apply for significant compensation if you have been diagnosed with any of the 68 cancers that doctors at the WTC Health Program (WTCHP) have linked to the WTC toxic dust. The deadline to apply to the Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) is two years from the date that a cancer has been certified by the WTC Health Program — or any other governmental agency. The two-year period to register doesn’t start on the day of a cancer diagnosis. Rather, it starts only when a cancer survivor is made aware their cancer was linked to exposure to the WTC toxins.

    For those who died from their WTC-linked cancers, the two-year period for their family to register starts on the day of the death of the WTC victim.

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