Plaintiff attorneys demanding a $45 million fee for their work on the 2014 water crisis lawsuit insist that they richly deserve this colossal compensation for their services.
The fat fee is nearly a third of the $151 million settlement with West Virginia American Water Company and Eastman Chemical. It’s 95,541 times what the average plaintiff could receive – $471 each for all 225,000 of them.
At least, that's what a lead attorney in the case contends. The only thing missing from his appeal to pity is a plaintive soundtrack for this plaintiff attorney. Cue the violin and see if you aren't moved by his tale of dedication, sacrifice, and persistence deserving to be rewarded:
“The important thing for the public to understand is often not explained sufficiently,” says lawyer Stuart Calwell. “A case like the water case is three years or more in the making. As a plaintiffs lawyer, nobody pays you. There is no one to send a monthly statement [to]. And while you’re prosecuting a major case, payroll has to be met, motions have to be filed, experts have to be retained. And, like I said, there is no one to send a bill to.
“Take this case, for example,” Calwell continues. “An expensive, risky case like the water case where everyone was blaming Freedom [Industries], we had to spend over $2 million unearthing the failures of the water company and the failures of Eastman to put together a case against defendants that could afford to pay and be held accountable.
“It’s a gamble. If we had not succeeded, then all that was invested both in expenses for experts and in keeping the firm operational would be lost.”
There you have it. That gigantic fee makes perfect sense now that Calwell has explained it. Fat cat lawyers splitting their jumbo jackpot are just like the brokers at Smith Barney, as described in the 1980s commercials featuring TV law professor John Houseman of The Paper Chase: “They make money the old-fashioned way. They earn it.”
The harmed folks without water for nine days and more with little recourse may not agree with that.