Sullivan Leads Bicameral Legislative Effort to Protect Camp Lejeune Vets from Unscrupulous Trial Lawyers
Legislation would cap fees charged by lawyers in Camp Lejeune water contamination cases
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), 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.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC), in introducing the Protect Camp Lejeune Victims Ensnared by Trial-lawyers’ Scams (VETS) Act. The bill would cap the fees trial lawyers can charge in cases representing sick Marines and other individuals impacted by water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Impacted individuals are able to seek compensation as a result of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which became law last August in the larger Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. According to the latest information provided by the United States Navy, there are currently 20,000 cases that have been filed so far, with the claims averaging $10 million or more.
In November of last year, Senator Sullivan tried to pass a legislative fix in the Senate, but was blocked by some of his Democratic colleagues. During consideration of the PACT Act, Senate Democrats blocked votes on any amendments, including an amendment to cap legal fees to trial lawyers. Since enactment of the law, trial lawyers across the country have unleashed hundreds of millions of 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 40 percent.
“In my eight years in the U.S. Senate, there are few issues I’ve been involved with that more desperately cry out for a just resolution,” said Sen. Sullivan. “Worst of all, the Biden Justice Department warned the Congress that, without a cap, predatory law firms could grab the lion’s share of these judgments and leave Marines and their family members with crumbs. This is an outrage—all Americans know it, all senators know it. My Republican colleagues and I have tried to remedy the situation multiple times, but some Democrats worked to block those efforts. It’s outrageous. With the bicameral legislation we are introducing, our colleagues will once again have an opportunity to protect these courageous service members who’ve served and sacrificed to protect all of us. The time to act is now. Let’s all have a little courage, like the Marines who need our help, and pass this important legislative fix.”
“Generations of brave Kentuckians joined the U.S. Marines to protect and defend our nation, only to ingest contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune and suffer debilitating lifelong illnesses as a consequence. These heroes deserve justice – and deserve protection from predatory trial lawyers,” said Senator McConnell. “I’m proud to join with Senator Sullivan and cosponsor the Protect Camp Lejeune VETS Act. This legislation was designed to support sick veterans, not enrich greedy lawyers.”
“Our armed service members deserve our enduring thanks. We’ve been working for years to ensure those who’ve been harmed by the contamination at Camp Lejeune are taken care of, but predatory trial lawyers have swooped in to take for themselves what ought to be going to individuals and families affected. This legislation will cap what these lawyers can charge families, so the benefits get where they’re supposed to, while still ensuring good lawyers are willing to take victims’ cases,” Senator Grassley said.
“While measures have been taken on behalf of veterans affected by the water crisis at Camp Lejeune, it has also opened the door for unscrupulous attorneys to prey on desperate victims and engage in rampant lawsuit abuse,” said Rep. Issa. “If not prevented, millions of dollars could go to predatory law firms rather than deserving service members and their loved ones. That’s why I’m thankful for the leadership of Rep. Bost and Sen. Sullivan and proud to join my colleagues in both houses of Congress to advance this crucial legislative solution. It’s time to put Marines and their families first.”
“Our Camp Lejeune veterans and their families have put up with enough,” said Chairman Bost. “As a Marine Corps veteran, I am grateful to two of my fellow veterans, Rep. Darrell Issa and Senator Dan Sullivan, for leading the Protect Camp Lejeune VETS Act this Congress to cap attorney fees at a reasonable rate, and safeguard Camp Lejeune veterans from predatory law firms. No veteran family who was affected by the Camp Lejeune water contamination crisis should have to endure unjustly high legal fees to simply have their day in court.”
Other cosponsors of the bill in the Senate include Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The Protect Camp Lejeune VETS Act is endorsed by the American Legion, which urged Congress to prevent this injustice by capping trial lawyer fees in the original legislation.
"With the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, veterans and their families were finally able to pursue legal action against the government for their exposure to toxic contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. After decades of waiting, and suffering the realities of life-threatening medical conditions, they were bombarded by advertisements from unscrupulous law firms charging exorbitant fees. We commend Senator Sullivan, Chairman Bost, and Congressman Issa for their leadership on this issue and correcting this injustice by introducing legislation that caps legal fees at a reasonable amount to ensure our veterans and their families are not taken advantage of," said Chanin Nuntavong, executive director for the American Legion.
HOTLINE: Veterans and their families with questions or who want to report fraud can contact the Department of Justice through the dedicated CLJA hotline (202-353-4426) and email box (CampLejeune.PACTAct@usdoj.gov).
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