Every American who has watched television in recent weeks has seen the deluge of trial-lawyer advertisements claiming to defend Marines who were exposed to toxins at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The background of how Democrats in Congress converted a bipartisan initiative to aid ill Marines into a new reward for trial lawyers is explained here.
Democrats Turn on Marines
The PACT Act, which offers remuneration to veterans and family members subjected to harmful substances, was signed into law by President Joe Biden in August.
This comprises legal actions taken by people who were exposed to toxins in the water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987.
The bill did away with the government’s privilege of defending itself against lawsuits, but it also did away with trial lawyer fee caps. The tort bar is currently lining up to profit, leaving the Marines with nothing and the taxpayers with an outrageous expense.
The law in question makes it obvious this was no mistake. President Obama passed a law in 2012 giving Camp Lejeune veterans who may have been exposed to harmful substances access to federal health funds.
Recent efforts by a bipartisan group in Congress to correct ambiguities in federal and state law that prevented certain plaintiffs from successfully suing the government for damages were hampered by technicalities.
Taxpayers and Marines are paying the price, and the GOP shouldn’t rest until they’ve fixed this trial-lawyer ripoff.https://t.co/yVPS3wbed6
— Wall Street Journal Opinion (@WSJopinion) March 6, 2023
The initial version of this bill was proposed in the early months of 2021 by Rep. Matt Cartwright.
Its legislation provides a fee limit of 20% if claims are decided outside of court and 25% if the case proceeds to trial since it simplified the process to win the litigation.
This reflects fee caps under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), the traditional way of suing the government for harm.
Some Democrats Join Republicans
Though, in late 2021, Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Gary Peters united with Republicans Thom Tillis and Richard Burr of North Carolina — longtime supporters of Camp Lejeune payouts — to offer a new bill without fee restrictions.
Cartwright entered the House shortly after. Federal disclosure documents reveal a slew of lobbyists were hired by tort heavies like the Bell Law Group in 2021 to aid in the passage of the Camp LeJeune legislation.
Evidence item #234,564,875 on how Congress screws us again and again for their favored groups.
Democrats rigged a legislative payoff for trial lawyers by turning a bipartisan effort to aid sick Marines into a new bounty. https://t.co/es2mx9nsNh via @WSJopinion
— Anodyne 🇺🇲 (@seanzy25255) March 6, 2023
Democrats later tucked the clause into the House PACT Act to avoid further discussion or changes. Democrats in the Senate rebuffed requests to permit amendments.
These included requests to establish a no-fault compensation scheme from the Biden Justice Department, fee caps of 2% for filing claims, and 10% if a lawsuit was ultimately required in order to prevent costly and laborious litigation.
Democrats in the Senate disregarded this and defeated GOP amendments.
Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska addressed all of these arguments and more when he requested majority Senate approval in December to put an end to the fee-hiking and enact the 2% and 10% fee ceilings that Justice Democrats suggested.