The Omnipresent Camp Lejeune Attorneys

The verdict is in. My award for the most annoying pursuit of the almighty dollar goes to the Camp Lejeune attorneys. They have officially become more disturbing than the My Pillow guy who at least has a product to sell.

Surely the Camp Lejeune advertisements have reached everyone who has cable or Internet the nine times required for the message to sink in. I stopped counting at 200.

The poor people who drank bad water at Camp Lejeune at Jacksonville, North Carolina, at Flint, Michigan, and more recently at Jackson, Mississippi, deserve our sympathy and compensation. Providing clean, drinkable water should be a high priority for community and governmental leaders. When it isn’t, someone needs to pay for the consequences.

Until now, veterans who lived at Camp Lejeune could not take any legal action against the government because of North Carolina’s laws. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 supersedes state laws and opens the door for service members and others to file claims. Sometimes lawyers must step into the fray to get good things done, which is apparently what they did in this case with Congress. Kudos to that group.

You could even say it was admirable of them. But, still, if there wasn’t plenty in it for them, it feels like firms wouldn’t be spending hundreds of thousands advertising for clients. John Grisham taught us about some legal motives in his book, The King of Torts.

When a plumber showed up at our house the other day with a USMC hat on, I asked his opinion on the Camp Lejeune water contamination, which, shamefully, lasted more than 30 years from 1953-1987.

“The lawyers get 20 percent off the top,” were the first words out of his mouth. I’m not the only skeptic, I thought.

I didn’t know if his figure was correct. Based on the number of advertisements I see on TV each night and even in my email, I assumed it was more. A quick search on the Internet indicated it was 25 percent but could go as high as 40 percent.

The plumber was quick to point out that he wasn’t affected by the water quality problems. However, he did serve in Desert Storm and worked near the notorious “burn pits.” Imagine what it must be like having a medical time bomb lurking in your body from non-combat actions you undertook while following orders.

Apparently, any issues he has in the future will also be covered by provisions of the Camp Lejeune Act, which is good for him – and for the lawyers.

The Camp Lejeune scenario takes me back to the early 1990s and my days as a reporter. I was covering the Indiana Supreme Court when they ruled on a lawsuit involving a refund to customers of the state’s largest utility. The refund of $120 million (sounds like peanuts today) had to do with the bailout of a failed nuclear power plant.

The group that pursued the refund – a credit to customers’ bills – was a consumer activist organization that was always fighting utilities. They portrayed themselves as they good guys and perhaps they were in some ways.

But what was appalling to me in the court’s order was that the activist group’s attorneys got the $15 million they sought for pursuing the refund. And, I discovered, had no plans to pass on any portion of that payout onto the customers they were supposed to be representing. I was later told it was considered the attorney’s “retirement fund.”

While the utility case didn’t have the personal impact of the bad drinking water cases, it serves as a reminder that there is always someone out there eager to benefit from the misfortune of others.

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