Fee Stipulations Prompt Some Law Firms to Abandon Zadroga Act ClientsMar 12, 2012 | Parker Waichman LLP
Some Ground Zero first responders are apparently being told to go elsewhere if they need assistance filing Zadroga Act compensation claims from the law firms that made millions in fees representing them in the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement. It seems these law firms aren't interested in representing their once lucrative clients, since they won't be able to collect fees on their Zadroga Act claims.
The Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which became law in December 2010, reopened the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund for five years to provide payment for job and economic losses for first responders, those trapped in the buildings, and local residents, who suffered illness or injuries related to the toxic dust. Sickened Ground Zero first responders who already received compensation under the World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement are also eligible for compensation under the Zadroga Act. However, their lawyers aren't able to collect a 10% fee on Zadroga Act recoveries if they have already billed a client a 25% fee for representation in the toxic dust settlement.
According to a report from The New York Post, one large law firm that advertised heavily for business after the Zadroga Act was passed in 2010 has sent a letter to its World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement clients, informing those clients it will no longer represent them. “By preventing us to be paid for our overhead and services, it essentially precludes us from representing the interests of our litigation clients” in Zadroga Act claims, the letter states.
John Feal, an advocate for sickened Ground Zero responders, called the letter “disturbing and appalling,” pointing out that this particular firm made about $200 million representing clients in the toxic dust settlement. Feal told the Post that clients had been repeatedly led to believe that the law firm in question would continue to represent them, and he asserted that the firm has an obligation to represent those clients pro bono.
Not all law firms, however, see the Zadroga Acts fee stipulations as a reason to abandon their Zadroga Act clients. The national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP, for one, has promised to stand by the Ground Zero responders, and will continue to represent them in both World Trade Center Toxic Dust Settlement and Zadroga Act claims.