Disability Law

Federal Circuit: US must pay attorney's fee to lawyer who took veteran's case 20 years ago

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Nearly 20 years after he agreed to represent a U.S. military veteran in a disability case, a Maine lawyer has gotten a definitive answer about his 20-percent contingent attorney fee.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday ruled that the feds owe attorney Francis Jackson of Jackson & MacNichol the agreed fee, even though his client died in 2008 before receiving any of the disability award he was granted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after years of litigation. Actually receiving the attorney fee could take another year, Jackson told the National Law Journal (sub. req.).

His client’s widow also never benefited from the accrued $136,652 disability award Jackson successfully sought for her, starting in 2009: She was in a nursing home suffering from severe dementia at the time of the payout, the lawyer said. “They paid the money to her, but of course it went to the state Medicaid program. Neither he nor she got the use of a dime of the money. It took so long to decide it. It’s kind of sad.”

Jackson carried on with the fee fight after the widow’s death two years ago, resulting in Tuesday’s ruling (PDF). However, he didn’t pursue the case simply for the money, he told the NLJ.

“I think most of the people who do this do it because they feel strongly about helping veterans,” Jackson said. “I think it’s an interesting and important area of the law. I like the work, and frankly I’m stubborn, as you can tell from this case.”

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