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Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Contamination Lawsuit

Between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, service members, their families and civilians who worked, lived, or spent some time on or around the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina were exposed to contaminated water. They used the water for drinking, cooking, and bathing in buildings all over the facility. 

Scientists discovered volatile organic compounds, degreasers, and other toxic substances in the water. The government knew about this but did nothing and also ignored reports of the water’s foul taste.

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Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Contamination Lawsuit

Between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, service members, their families and civilians who worked, lived, or spent some time on or around the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina were exposed to contaminated water. They used the water for drinking, cooking, and bathing in buildings all over the facility. 

Scientists discovered volatile organic compounds, degreasers, and other toxic substances in the water. The government knew about this but did nothing and also ignored reports of the water’s foul taste. 

The individuals and families who have had to deal with the adverse effects of Camp Lejeune have been denied justice until now.

Marine veterans and their survivors began to sue the US government in 2005, alleging that their exposure to contaminated water caused untold harm. In 2016, a North Carolina court determined that the law at the federal and state levels prevented such suits and dismissed all claims. 

The US Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), which President Joe Biden signed into law in August 2022. The CLJA precludes the government from asserting immunity that would otherwise be available in response to litigation. It also overrides a North Carolina statute that prohibits the filing of tort claims after ten years. 

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act aims to provide disability benefits for veterans who are victims of contamination. It gives injured marines and their families the right to sue and recover damages for harm from exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. 

Only individuals exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days can file a suit under the CLJA. 

What Happened in Camp Lejeune?

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a 250-square-mile military facility in Jacksonville, North Carolina. From 1957 to 1987, marines who resided on the base drank and bathed in heavily contaminated water. Environmental testing in 1982 showed that the public water going to residents of Camp Lejeune contained dangerously high levels of toxins.

The most concerning toxins found in the water were volatile organic compounds Trichloroethylene (TCE) and Perchloroethylene (PCE). 

These compounds got into the water from an off-camp dry cleaner operating before the facility opened. TCE and PCE were also used in cleaning weapons and machinery, so part of the contamination originated from sources inside Camp Lejeune.  

Congenital defects remain one of Camp Lejeune’s most significant tragedies. 

Pregnant women who lived on the base were exposed to toxins and were four times more likely to give birth to children with defects like spina bifida — a condition that prevents a developing baby’s spinal cord from forming or closing properly. 

According to the CDC, children exposed to the contaminated water during fetal development were also more likely to develop childhood and adult leukemia.  

The Government’s Slow Response

The information about Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water was not made public for about two decades, even though the government knew and understood the risks as far back as the early 1940s. 

Toxic chemicals found at camp Lejeune led to the closure of base wells and their restriction for activities other than drinking or cooking.  

The US Navy was aware of the dangers of the water in Camp Lejeune but did nothing about it. 

Although government attorneys might argue that there were no established drinking water standards at the time, prosecuting lawyers will claim that the Navy was negligent and should have known. 

What Will the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Entail?

The plaintiffs in the Camp Lejeune lawsuit will argue that the base’s public water supply was contaminated between 1953 and 1987. 

They’ll also accuse the government of negligence, leading to injury or death because they knew about contaminated water in the facility’s supply and failed to warn residents of the inherent dangers. 

Thousands of people who worked or lived in Camp Lejeune and their families have suffered many adverse consequences. They have had to deal with the severe physical and mental effects many years after. 

The victims have also been denied a chance at justice, until now.

North Carolina’s “statute of repose” law imposes a ten-year limit on how long you can wait before you file a civil lawsuit, even if there was no way you could have known that your case was connected to a past event. 

Thus, many Camp Lejeune victims have been unable to initiate litigation seeking damages until now. 

A 2016 lawsuit involving 850 Camp Lejeune victims was thrown out under the statute of repose.

The US Congress passed the Janey Ensminger Act in 2012 to allow the federal government to cover the medical costs of Camp Lejeune survivors. 

However, this Act was limited in scope as it only covered disability benefits. Additionally, the Act did not cover marine veterans and their families. 

The need to offer reasonable settlement sums to affected individuals and their families led to the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. 

How Will Court Proceedings Play Out?

Government lawyers in the Camp Lejeune lawsuits will vigorously defend the government’s position — this is how the justice system works. 

Nonetheless, the same government removed the legal restrictions that now give victims the right to bring claims. Therefore, veterans and survivors who bring claims can expect to receive a reasonable settlement before the case gets to trial. 

The Effects of Contaminated Water in Camp Lejeune

Perchloroethylene (PCE) in Camp Lejeune’s water supply was the primary source of contamination and caused most of the resulting injuries and fatalities. 

This compound is a colorless liquid used to clean fabrics in the dry cleaning industry. When ingested or inhaled, the body absorbs the chemical, which quickly travels to the lungs. The chemical can also get into the bloodstream via dermal exposure. 

PCE enters the liver, kidneys, nervous system, and accumulates in the body’s fat cells. Trichloroethylene, the other significant contaminant in Camp Lejeune, can cross the placenta to the fetus; this explains the high rate of birth defects witnessed at Camp Lejeune. 

Congenital heart conditions were common among pregnant women at Camp Lejeune who were exposed to contaminated water.  

PCE has been connected to several health conditions, such as cancers affecting the kidney and bladder, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and injuries to the liver and kidney. 

The toxin levels recorded at Camp Lejeune were unbelievably high — over 240 to 3,400 times the recommended safe levels at one point. 

Trichloroethylene (TCE), the other major contaminant in Camp Lejeune, is a chemical used in industrial processes for making refrigerants and hydrocarbons. It was also used as a solvent for degreasing weapons and military equipment. TCE gets into the bloodstream primarily through the nasal route but can also be orally or dermally absorbed. 

TCE contamination on Camp Lejeune is thought to have originated from multiple sources supplying the camp’s water treatment facility. 

Camp Lejeune had astronomic TCE levels — up to 1,400 parts per billion (ppb). 

The Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended maximum level for safe potable water is five parts per billion.

Other Toxins at Camp Lejeune

Albeit significant, PCE and TCE were not the only contaminants at the military facility. 

Mercury, vinyl chloride, and benzene — all dangerous chemicals by themselves — were found in the public water supply. 

The source of the mercury is thought to be the water pressure meters removed from Camp Lejeune in the 1980s. Other harmful chemicals in the water supply at Camp Lejeune highlights the negligent behavior that brought untold harm to many service personnel and their families.

Studies have linked the toxins that contaminated the water in Camp Lejeune to cancer, neurological disorders, and congenital defects. 

Available evidence also portrays continuous exposure to volatile organic compounds can increase the rates of some cancer types in a population. 

The most common cancer types associated with the toxins at Camp Lejeune are: 

  • Brain cancer
  • Adult Leukemia
  • Cervical cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma

Non-cancer injuries and conditions linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination include:

  • Aplastic anemia 
  • Kidney disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Infertility
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Scleroderma 
  • Bone marrow issues
  • Hepatic steatosis 
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Miscarriage
  • Death

Victims to Get Justice

The Camp Lejeune lawsuit Act will help veterans who were victims of this negligence get justice. 

There’s no contesting the fact that contaminated water was the root cause of illnesses and deaths that the service personnel of Camp Lejeune experienced in later years. 

If you or a family member served, worked, or lived on Camp Lejeune for up to 30 days between 1953 and 1957, you may qualify to file a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act if you have been diagnosed with cancer, lymphoma, or any condition related to the toxins discussed above. 

Camp Lejeune Justice Act

On August 10, 2022, US Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which was signed into law a few days later. 

Veterans of Camp Lejeune who have been denied disability claims by Veteran Affairs now have the chance to file for compensation and recover a settlement.

Who Can File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act offers broad eligibility requirements, giving former residents, employees, and service personnel who can prove their exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period the legal right to bring a lawsuit against the government. 

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act States that: 

An individual, including a veteran of the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero 22 exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.  

Thus, anyone able to prove that they lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days within the relevant period can bring a suit. 

If the individual who worked or lived on Camp Lejeune is deceased, their family members can file a wrongful death suit against the government.

These groups of people are eligible to file a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act:

  • Military personnel stationed at Camp Lejeune or were assigned to Camp Lejeune within the relevant time period.
  • Relatives of military personnel who lived at Camp Lejeune 
  • Non-military employees of Camp Lejeune
  • Any person exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune 

If you’re unsure of your eligibility to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, contact an attorney for clarity. Most tort attorneys offer a free no-obligation case evaluation.

Defendants in the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

The US federal government is the defendant in the Camp Lejeune lawsuit. A Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) class action was leveled against the federal government in 2011, seeking damages for personal injury and wrongful death due to exposure to contaminated water. 

The plaintiffs also alleged that the government failed to provide warning about the risks of toxic exposure.

The case was dismissed not for lack of merit but the state’s statutes of repose prevented the victims from filing a lawsuit. 

However, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act will eliminate the legal barriers and allow veterans and their families to seek and recover compensation.

How to Prove Eligibility for a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

Individuals bringing claims against the government will have to provide documentary proof showing that they were on Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days during the time period. Former service personnel will provide their service records. Family members can tender the same files. as proof they were in the facility.

Civilians bringing claims against the government must provide proof of employment at Camp Lejeune within the time period. 

If you can’t provide documentary proof that you were in Camp Lejeune, you’ll have trouble proving you qualify for a settlement. People who can’t find their documents will have to work closely with their attorneys to track their records.

Settlements for Camp Lejeune Lawsuits

These are early days, and projections for settlement amounts will be premature. The government is setting aside $6.7 billion for Camp Lejeune victims’ settlement and jury costs. 

This figure may change for political or policy reasons. However, we can make average settlement estimations using this figure as an anchor.

Settlements for Camp Lejeune victims will depend on the degree of injuries and the prosecuting attorney’s ability to prove that the contaminated water was the primary cause of the injuries and their resultant effects. 

The number of lawsuits accepted will also affect final settlement amounts. 

A select number of Camp Lejeune victims have been diagnosed with cancer. Settlement amounts for class action suits involving cancer are typically between $150,000 and $750,000. 

This range is admittedly broad, and some plaintiffs may collect settlements above or below this value, depending on their case specifics.

Attorney Fees in Camp Lejeune Lawsuits

Attorneys representing victims in the Camp Lejeune lawsuits will typically not receive payment until you get a settlement. Thus, you will not be risking any money by bringing a claim. 

Most attorneys charge 40% of the settlement fees, but under the Federal Tort Claims Act, lawyer contingency fees are capped at 25%.

Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Deadlines

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act includes a statute of limitations for leveling claims against the government. Victims of Camp Lejeune water contaminations have a two-year deadline from August 10, 2022 to file a claim.

Filing a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit

If you’re eligible for a Camp Lejeune contamination suit, the first thing you want to do is to contact an attorney. 

Tort lawyers typically provide a no-obligation consultation and case review for free. 

The US District Court for the Eastern District of California has exclusive jurisdiction over the Camp Lejeune Contamination case, and this is where your attorney will file your lawsuit. 

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act stipulates that plaintiffs must file a claim for their injuries with the “appropriate federal agency” — which in this case is the Department of Defense — and have their claim denied before bringing a civil lawsuit. 

This process is usually a formality for bringing civil lawsuits. For some plaintiffs, the federal agency may offer settlements for claims it deems legitimate.

Justice at Last

Victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination have been denied justice for decades. After years of legislation and activism, the CLJA offers hope of a chance at justice. 

If you or a family member has been a victim of the Camp Lejeune water contamination, contact an attorney immediately.

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