Sullivan, Daines, American Legion Celebrate Caps on Camp Lejeune Attorney Fees, Protecting Marines & Families
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and American Legion Commander Daniel J. Seehafer, today hosted a press conference celebrating newly-imposed caps on the fees trial lawyers can charge in cases representing Marines, their families, and other individuals impacted by water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The caps, announced in September, came after Sen. Sullivan, with the strong support of the American Legion, fought to resolve the issue for more than a year in the Senate. In September, Sen. Sullivan pressed the issue with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland two weeks prior to the announcement of caps by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Click here to watch the full press conference.
“I've seen a lot of issues that call out for justice, but I've never seen one that calls out for justice as much as this one does,” said Sen. Sullivan. “For the past year, law firms across the country have unleashed a billion-dollar-plus ad campaign, with many aiming to steal the bulk of the compensation due to Marines by charging contingency fees as high as 60 to 70 percent. After a year of fighting this injustice, I spoke with the attorney general and we were able to get the Department of Justice to finally impose caps and protect our veterans. Now we want to get the word out: If you're a veteran who served at Camp Lejeune and a law firm is trying to take 60 to 70 percent of your money—wrong answer. The maximum lawyers can charge now is 20 to 25 percent. That’s it. I want to thank the American Legion for being by our side from day one. They made this their top priority. This is a major victory for our veterans as we approach Veterans Day.”
“On Saturday, November 11th, it's called ‘Veterans Day.’ We didn't call it ‘Trial Lawyers Day.’ We call it ‘Veterans Day’ for a reason,” said Sen. Daines. “There's one thing standing between the veterans and their Camp Lejeune benefits, and it's the VA Committee and trial lawyers. Senator Sullivan has been the leader on this issue, exposing the scandal. This is a scandal that's going on right now where dollars that should be going to Marines from Camp Lejeune exposure are instead being directed to trial lawyers.”
“Thank you, Senator Sullivan, for bringing us together here today. On behalf of our 1.6 million dues-paying members, the American Legion shares our gratitude for your servant leadership and continued dedication to Marines impacted by water contamination at Camp Lejeune,” said Commander Seehafer. “While we rejoiced upon the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the need for modifications to streamline its implementation and protect veterans from bad actors quickly emerged … Thankfully, the Department of Justice recently announced the institution of caps on fees trial lawyers can charge in representing Marines and others impacted by Camp Lejeune toxic exposure.”
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Marines and impacted individuals can seek compensation as a result of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which became law in August 2022 in the larger Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. In May 2022, the Biden Justice Department provided technical guidance on the PACT Act, recommending the legislation cap attorney’s fees. During consideration of the PACT Act, Senate Democrats blocked votes on any amendments, including an amendment to cap legal fees. Since passage of the law, trial lawyers across the country have unleashed over a billion dollars in television ads and social media campaigns, seeking out Marines and other victims for Camp Lejeune-related cases and charging contingency fees reportedly as high as 60 percent.
Sen. Sullivan has been fighting to cap lawyers’ fees in Camp Lejeune cases for more than a year, introducing the Protect Camp Lejeune Victims Ensnared by Trial-lawyers’ Scams (VETS) Act. Sen. Sullivan had pressed for caps of 12 percent for filing paperwork and 17 percent for going to trial. DOJ settled on caps that align with the Federal Tort Claims Act, which are 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively.
- On March 26, 2021, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was introduced in the House with attorney’s fees capped at the Federal Tort Claims Act level.
- On November 4, 2021, companion legislation to the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was introduced in the Senate, but without attorney’s fees capped.
- On January 25, 2022, a new version of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was introduced in the House without attorney’s fees capped, aligning with the Senate version.
- On May 2, 2022, the Justice Department published technical assistance on the PACT Act that recommended including caps on attorney’s fees, “ensuring that the bulk of recovery in each case will go to the veterans themselves and not to their lawyers.”
- On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed the PACT Act into law, without caps on Camp Lejeune attorney’s fees.
- In October 2022, the American Legion passed a resolution asking Congress to pass legislation capping the Camp Lejeune attorneys’ fees.
- On November 11, 2022, Sen. Sullivan criticized some of his committee colleagues in an SVAC hearing for enabling predatory trial lawyers to take advantage of Marines and called on the committee to institute caps through legislation immediately.
- On November 30, 2022, Sens. Sullivan, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) attempted to pass Sullivan’s Protect Camp Lejeune VETS Act by unanimous consent, but the motion was blocked by Senate Democrats.
- On December 15, 2022, Sen. Sullivan spoke on the Senate floor about the Camp Lejeune issue.
- On February 10, 2023, Sens. Sullivan, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and nine other senators were joined by Representatives Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Mike Bost (R-Ill.) in re-introducing the Protect Camp Lejeune VETS Act in both the Senate and the House.
- On March 1, 2023, in a joint hearing of SVAC and the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Sullivan again called on his SVAC colleagues to institute caps.
- On March 6, 2023, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial on the topic titled, “The Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Racket.”
- On May 17, 2023, in an SVAC hearing, Sen. Sullivan again urged his committee colleagues to institute caps.
- On July 13, 2023, Sen. Sullivan filed his Protect Camp Lejeune VETS Act as an amendment to the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but it was blocked by Senate Democrats.
- In September 5, 2023, Sen. Sullivan and Rep. Issa sent a letter to the Navy requesting that they create an expedited and optional pathway for veterans and their families in order to settle Camp Lejeune cases faster.
- On September 6, 2023, Sen. Sullivan spoke with Attorney General Garland about the issue, reminding the attorney general that DOJ had strongly supported the inclusion of caps in its guidance on the PACT Act before it passed.
- On September 7, 2023, the Navy announced an optional pathway to expedite claims for veterans, following all of the requests included in Sen. Sullivan’s letter, but without attorney’s fees capped.
- On September 15, 2023, Attorney General Garland called Sen. Sullivan to inform him that DOJ would be instituting attorney’s fees caps in Camp Lejeune cases.
- On September 18, 2023, Sen. Sullivan spoke with Veterans Affairs Secretary McDonough and Navy Secretary Del Toro about coordinating an effort to communicate these new fee caps to Camp Lejeune victims and attorneys.
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