One of the most common questions we get from clients is “what are the attorney fees for the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit?”
Although most other law firms are charging fees of 40%, our Camp Lejeune attorney fees are 20% or 25% of the total recovery, depending on the stage your case is resolved or settled.
Camp Lejeune Attorney Fees Should Be Capped At 20% or 25%
Fob James Law Firm has chosen to honor the attorney fee caps in both the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 and the Federal Tort Claims Act. The language in these Acts expressly limit attorney fees to 20% or 25% of the total recovery.
Accordingly, if your Camp Lejeune claim is resolved without litigation, the attorney’s fee is 20% of the settlement. And if your claim is resolved after filing a lawsuit, the attorney’s fee is 25% of the total amount recovered.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which was signed into law in August 2022, did not include the attorney’s fee cap provision that was in the 2021 version of the bill. This has caused widespread confusion and many law firms are charging 40% contingency fees or higher.
As explained in further detail below, we believe that the attorney fees in Camp Lejeune water contamination cases should be capped at 20% or 25% for three main reasons:
- The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which historically applies to tort claims brought against the federal government, caps attorney fees at 20% or 25%. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 incorporates the claims process of the FTCA.
- The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 provided that the attorney fees are limited to 20% or 25% of the recovery or settlement. This provision was later removed from the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 but the language incorporating the claims process of the FTCA remained.
- For many Camp Lejeune claims, liability has already been established. This means that the cost and time to litigate these claims are substantially less than traditional toxic tort cases.
Accordingly, our Camp Lejeune lawyers charge either a 20% or 25% attorney’s fee depending on if your claim is resolved before litigation. If we do not obtain a recovery then you owe us nothing, not even expenses.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyers Charge a “Contingency Fee”
Like most plaintiff firms, Fob James Law Firm operates on the contingency-fee-basis, which means we only get paid a percentage of the recovery if we successfully resolve your case. Our fees come out of a favorable settlement or jury award, not out of your pocket.
For example, say your case is resolved for $500,000.00 without litigation and the contingency fee is 20%. The attorney’s fee in this case would be $100,000.00.
Many clients have told us that other firms are charging 33% to 45% contingency fees for Camp Lejeune cases. These fee percentages are extremely high, especially in light of the fact that for many claims, the injury suffered [e.g. bladder cancer] is presumed to have been caused by the toxic water at Camp Lejeune and liability is not in dispute.
The Federal Tort Claims Act Caps Attorney Fees
Historically, toxic tort and other negligence claims filed against the federal government are brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
For example, before the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) was signed into law, victims of the toxic water at Camp Lejeune filed lawsuits against the federal government under the FTCA.
In most environmental tort cases where liability is disputed, law firms typically charge a 40% contingency fee.
However, under Section 2678 of the Federal Tort Claims Act, the attorney’s fee in tort claims brought against employees of the federal government are capped at a percentage of 20% or 25%, depending on the stage of the case.
Hypothetical #1 – Your Case is Settled Before Filing a Lawsuit
According to Section 2678 of the FTCA, if your claim is resolved administratively (e.g. the claim is submitted to the Department of Defense and it settles the claim administratively), the lawyer’s fee is capped at 20% of the total recovery.
For example, say your case settled pre-litigation for $100,000.00, the attorney’s fee would be $20,000.00.
Hypothetical #2 – You File a Lawsuit
Under Section 2678 of the FTCA, if your claim is resolved by settlement or judgment after the filing of a lawsuit, the attorney’s fee is capped at 25% of the total recovery.
In this situation, if your case was resolved after filing a lawsuit for $100,000.00, the attorney’s fee would be $25,000.00.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act Incorporates the Claims Process of the FTCA
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act in Section 2 paragraph (g) specifically incorporates the FTCA’s legal process set forth in 28 U.S. Code § 2675:
(g) Disposition By Federal Agency Required.—An individual may not bring an action under this section before complying with section 2675 of title 28, United States Code.S.3176
This means that Camp Lejeune claims must first be submitted to the Office of the JAG, which will have six months to administratively resolve the claim. If the claim is not resolved within the six month evaluation period, claimants can proceed filing a lawsuit in federal court in North Carolina.
Because the CLJA incorporates the FTCA’s claim process and tort claims against the federal government are historically brought under the FTCA, we believe that Camp Lejeune lawyer fees are capped under the FTCA.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act Of 2021 Limited Attorney Fees To 20% or 25%
The March 26, 2021 version of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act [H.R. 2192], which was introduced to the House of Representatives, specifically limited attorneys fees to 20% or 25% based on Section 2678 of the FTCA:
(H) ATTORNEY FEES.—ATTORNEY FEES FOR SERVICES PROVIDED TO AN INDIVIDUAL SEEKING A REMEDY UNDER THIS SECTION SHALL BE IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 2678 OF TITLE 28, UNITED STATES CODE [FTCA].H.R. 2192
This attorney fee provision was later removed from the Senate’s 2022 version of the bill [S.3176]. However, Section 2(g) of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which incorporates the claims process of the FTCA, remained in the final bill passed by Congress and signed into law. As a result, there is an argument that Camp Lejeune attorney fees should be limited pursuant to the “spirit” of the bill.
In any event, Fob James Law Firm honors the FTCA and original version of the CLJA, thus our Camp Lejeune attorney fees are limited to 20% or 25% of the total amount recovered.
A 20-25% Contingency Fee For Camp Lejeune Water Cases Is Reasonable
Aside from the FTCA, we do not believe Camp Lejeune Justice Act claims justify charging the client a 40% contingency fee. In the typical toxic tort case, liability and medical causation is heavily disputed. The burden is on the plaintiff to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the toxic substance at issue caused the injury.
In order to prove the toxin is dangerous, plaintiff attorneys must hire expensive experts. Likewise, in order to prove the toxin caused the alleged injury, plaintiff attorneys must retain medical causation experts (e.g. Doctors) that relate the injury to the toxic substance.
Well funded corporate defendants hire their own expensive experts to rebut the plaintiff’s experts. This process is very costly and time consuming as is the discovery process required to obtain the information needed to prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence.
For many Camp Lejeune cases, liability and medical causation has already been established or conceded. Studies have been administered by private groups and government agencies that establish liability on the part of the government. The VA has found that various injuries are “service connected” as a direct result of the toxic water.
Simply put, there is less workup required to prosecute the Camp Lejeune claims, especially those that have conditions presumed to have been caused by the toxic water. As a result, Fob James Law Firm believes that a fee percentage of 20% or 25% is fair and reasonable for both clients and their attorneys.
What Are the Presumptive Conditions for Camp Lejeune Claims?
In the disability context, a presumptive condition is a disease the Department of Veteran Affairs believes was likely caused by certain exposure during the veteran’s active duty service.
A presumptive condition is typically supported by scientific evidence and peer reviewed medical studies that relate the disease to a specific exposure during military service.
The VA’s Presumptive Conditions
For Camp Lejeune water contamination claims, the VA has conceded that the following diseases are presumed to have been caused by 30 days or more of exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987:
- Adult leukemia
- Liver cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Aplastic anemia
- Kidney cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
The above list is not exhaustive as it is in context of a veteran’s exposure to the toxic water for the purposes of a disability claim.
However, the list also applies to a victim pursuing a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. A claimant with one of the diseases above will have a very strong case because the government has already conceded that a causal relationship exists between the disease and exposure to the toxic water.
The Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012
Of course, many non-veterans were exposed to the toxic water, including family members that lived on base. For this reason, the government passed the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.
This law requires the VA to provide health care to Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune and to reimburse eligible Camp Lejeune family members for health care costs related to one or more of the following 15 specified illnesses or medical conditions:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Miscarriage (while at Camp Lejeune)
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
The Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 not only includes five of the VA’s eight presumptive diseases, but also ten additional illnesses such as cancers of the breast, esophagus and lungs.
Accordingly, we believe that claimants with illnesses covered under the Camp Lejeune Families Act also have strong claims and arguably have “presumptive conditions”.
In any event, Fob James Law Firm charges every Camp Lejeune client the same attorney fees. We do not charge clients with a “non-VA-presumed condition” a different fee structure than clients with a “VA-presumed condition”.
Legislators and Veteran Groups Are Seeking An Amendment To The Camp Lejeune Justice Act
Due to the exorbitant fees charged by some law firms, veteran groups and legislators are seeking legislation capping attorney fees for CLJA claims. In November 2022, Senator and veteran Dan Sullivan announced plans to introduce legislation capping attorney fees for Camp Lejeune cases to protect veterans and their families from predatory lawyers. Efforts in the Senate have since stalled.
On December 6, 2022, Rep. Mike Bost, R-IL., along with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA and eight others introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to cap Camp Lejeune lawyer fees at 25%, which would track the fee caps under the FTCA.
Just recently, the American Legion announced that it is supporting legislation capping the attorney fees charged on Camp Lejeune cases. Specifically, the American Legion is supporting the Protect Camp Lejeune Victims Ensnared by Trial-lawyers’ Scams (VETS) Act, which seeks to cap attorney fees.
The reality is that many law firms are charging much higher fee percentages because they are spending millions of dollars in advertising. Also, many law firms are referring cases to other law firms that will actually do the work. As a result, some law firms must charge higher legal fees to recoup marketing costs or to compensate multiple law firms.
Contact Fob James Law Firm If You Need Help With Your Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claim
Fob James Law Firm is representing veterans and their families all over the country in connection with their Camp Lejeune claims. It does not matter if you are located in North Carolina, Florida, California or New York–we are happy and able to represent you.
Regardless of where you reside, all Camp Lejeune claims are initially filed with the Office of the JAG and lawsuits are filed in federal court in North Carolina.