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Matter of New York Times Co. v. City of N.Y. Fire Dept – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Matter of New York Times Co. v. City of N.Y. Fire Dept. (3 AD3d 340, 770 NYS2d 324 [1st Dept 2004] affd 4 NY3d 477, 829 NE2d 266, 796 NYS2d 302 [2005]), the Court held that nine individual members of the families of people who died in the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 were interested persons--within the meaning of CPLR 7802 (d)--and should have been permitted to intervene in a proceeding brought by a newspaper challenging the fire department's denial of the petitioner's application under FOIL for documents, audiotapes and other records compiled during the department's internal investigation of the attack, but only "to the extent respondent denied disclosure on the basis of the privacy rights of close family relatives of 9/11 victims." (3 AD3d at 342.)

The Court explained that while the family members should not have been permitted to intervene to the extent that respondent's denial was based upon other grounds (see 3 AD3d at 341), they should have been granted permission to the extent that disclosure of some of the radio dispatch tapes was denied based upon the personal privacy exemption under Public Officers Law § 87 (2) (b) and 89 (2) (b) (iv), because "disclosure of the highly personal expressions of persons who were facing imminent death, expressing fear and panic, would be hurtful to a reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities who is a survivor of someone who made a 911 call before dying" (3 AD3d at 342).