Gus Brown Volunteer Work Includes Providing Legal Help for Victims of Terrorism Attacks; Only Attorney in Harford and Cecil Counties to Do So
Although it has been years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the damage to the families of the victims of those attacks has not been ameliorated by time.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals, plus many nations and the United States government, donated millions of dollars to the Victims of 9-11 Fund -- this is well known. But much less well-known are details about how those dollars have been used.
As part of the relief effort, Congress passed a law granting immunity to the air carriers and the aviation industry for any liability resulting from the attacks and their aftermath in Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York; as a corollary to that legislation, Congress created the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund to compensate businesses and families for their losses.
However, disbursement of the funds remains far from automatic. Each and every individual must bring a legal cause of action before a Master specifically appointed to oversee the fund. The burden of doing this rests with those seeking compensation, and therefore the potential for significant delay or legal costs looms large.
In response to this, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) asked for volunteers from its membership to represent victims of 9/11 before the Fund; ultimately, a 300-member "law firm," Trial Lawyers Care, was established to handle this.
Of the approximately 22 members of Trial Lawyers Care from Maryland, Augustus F. Brown was the only attorney from Harford or Cecil Counties to volunteer and qualify for the firm. Working with Brown, Brown & Young associate Meaghan Alegi, Gus Brown has devoted 100s of hours toward representing 7 different plaintiffs before the Fund.
According to Gus, 2 of these were families who had loved ones killed in the attacks (therefore the motion before the Master was for compensation due to wrongful death), and 5 were persons seriously injured at the Pentagon (therefore the motion was for compensation for medical expenses, economic loss and pain & suffering).
"The stories of these people are just heart-rending," says Gus Brown. "One woman was sitting at her desk in the Pentagon when flames from the explosion shot out of the duct work onto her, completely burning her clothing off her body and blowing her shoes off her feet!" he adds. Thanks to Brown's efforts, this victim was reimbursed for her medical expenses, loss of work, and pain and suffering.
Another Pentagon "client" was a U.S. Army Sergeant who had motorcycled to the Pentagon that morning to take an exam. As Gus relates, "Just as he got off his cycle and took off his helmet, the plane hit 100 yards in front of him, blowing him backwards against a light pole (which probably saved his life). Although he suffered significant head injuries, he remained at the scene the entire day, helping other people, before seeking medical treatment for himself," Gus adds.
"Perhaps the saddest case we worked on was that of a New Jersey woman whose husband had worked in the World Trade Center; his death left her with two small children and no means of support, but in the end, despite our efforts, she could not bring herself to make a claim -- it was still too painful for her, and she didn't want to relive it," Gus says.
In addition to volunteer service to Trial Lawyers Care, Gus Brown has also assisted the Harford County Public Defenders Office in panel cases, where conflicts of interest prevented members of the Public Defenders Office from handling the matter.
He is also a member of the Equal Justice Council of the Harford Count Legal Aid Bureau, raising funds for Legal Aid in conjunction with the Harford County Bar Foundation to provide civil legal services to the poor. The beneficiaries of Gus's work include victims of domestic violence seeking court orders for protection of themselves and their children; tenants defending themselves against lawsuits by landlords (these are often cases of constructive eviction due to the inadequacy of the premises); persons seeking counseling in bankruptcy cases; and more.