Between 1953 and 1987, severely contaminated water at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina led to hundreds of thousands of people being exposed to harmful chemicals. Many marines and their families working and living at Camp Lejeune during this period have developed cancer and numerous other diseases as a result of their exposure.
Unfortunately, the statute of limitations previously barred victims from recovering compensation for the damages they suffered. However, a new federal law is in its final stages. This law is expected to soon be passed by Congress and signed by the president.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022 will allow victims to file lawsuits over this contaminated water to recover the necessary compensation. Contact John Foy & Associates to get started with your case today.
Forthcoming Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuits
Once the new legislation gets passed, anyone who suffered a water toxicity-related disease due to exposure at Camp Lejeune will be eligible to file a lawsuit to recover compensation from the government. The Camp Lejeune water contamination disaster is the worst public water system failure in American history.
The toxicity rates for many of the chemicals discovered in this water were hundreds to thousands of times the acceptable levels allowed by federal safety standards. While many toxins were found in the Camp Lejeune water, the contaminants these lawsuits will primarily focus on are trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene.
Until now, the law in North Carolina has blocked victims of Camp Lejeune from bringing lawsuits against the government over this exposure. Once this law clears the final procedural hurdles that it currently faces, those who suffered harm will finally have a path to compensation and justice after a wait that was far too long.
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About the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corp base that has been operational since 1942. Camp Lejeune is located in Onslow County, North Carolina, and occupies a total of 250 square miles. In addition to serving marines, this base has been used for training operations by various other branches of the armed forces.
In total, hundreds of thousands of people have lived or worked at Camp Lejeune since it became operational. In the 1980s, the Marine Corps ran tests on the water supply of Camp Lejeune. Through these tests, they discovered that the two primary water treatment facilities for the base were both contaminated with toxic chemicals at an incredibly high level.
Through this testing, they were able to determine that the contamination of the water began in 1953 and continued until 1987. During this period, it is estimated that nearly one million people were exposed to the contaminated water at the Marine Corps base.
The Toxins Found in the Camp Lejeune Water Supply
The two water treatment facilities that served as the primary drinking water sources for the base were the Hadnot Point treatment plant and the Tarawa Terrace water plant. The levels of chemicals in the water from these facilities far exceeded the maximum safety limits laid out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The primary contaminant at the Hadnot Point treatment plant was trichloroethylene (TCE). TCE is a colorless and odorless liquid chemical. It is used for a variety of purposes and was most commonly used by the military as a solvent and degreaser. The maximum safe level for TCE is five parts per billion (ppb), while the levels at Hadnot Point were as high as 1,400 ppb.
At Tarawa Terrace, the primary toxin was perchloroethylene (PCE). PCE is a colorless liquid with a mild odor. It is primarily used in the commercial dry-cleaning industry and the contamination was linked to a dry cleaning business near the plant. The maximum safe level for TCE is five ppb, while the levels in the water from Tarawa Terrace were as high as 215 ppb.
Illnesses Suffered in Relation to Water Contamination
The chemicals found in the water at Camp Lejeune have been linked to a wide array of health problems. Those exposed have suffered from a plethora of illnesses, including several types of cancers, neurological disorders, and birth defects. Some of the cancers that have been linked to the Camp Lejeune contaminated water include:
- Liver cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Breast cancer
- Renal cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
Exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 has been scientifically linked to an increased mortality rate from cancer and other chronic illnesses. In addition to cancer, exposure to this water has been linked to:
- ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Brain damage
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Cardiac defects
- Fatty liver disease
- Hepatic steatosis
- Immune disorders
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Aplastic anemia (and other bone marrow conditions)
- Renal toxicity
- Birth defects
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has performed extensive studies into the effect of exposure on pregnant mothers. These studies have linked TCE, PCE, and the other chemicals found in the Camp Lejeune water supply to a significantly higher rate of neural tube birth defects, including spina bifida.
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The Marine Corps Looked the Other Way
Sadly, much of the exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune in the later years could have been avoided if the military had taken action. Extensive evidence has come to light showing that the Marine Corps first ignored and later covered up the issue of the contaminated water supply for the base.
The issue was first discovered in 1981 when new EPA regulations went into effect, which required the military to test the water for the first time. The resulting report from the Army Environmental Hygiene Agency warned that the water was highly contaminated. Unfortunately, no immediate action was taken.
Despite further tests by other organizations and several warnings over the next two years, officials at Camp Lejeune submitted a falsified report to the EPA in April of 1983 stating that there were no environmental contamination issues at the base.
Finally, in July of 1984, the USMC agreed to begin shutting down the contaminated water wells after a new laboratory was contracted by the EPA to test the water at Camp Lejeune. Unfortunately, this shutdown came too late for many who had been living and working on the base during this period.
Lawsuits Blocked by North Carolina Statute of Repose
A previous multi-district litigation lawsuit was filed by about 850 victims of the Camp Lejeune water supply. Additionally, there were many independent lawsuits filed by single plaintiffs. Unfortunately, they were all dismissed in 2016 because of North Carolina’s statute of repose law.
North Carolina’s statute of repose law states that all tort lawsuits must be filed within ten years of the incident that led to the damage, even if the victim is unaware of what caused their injuries during this period. Since the last exposure at Camp Lejeune was in the 1980s, this excluded all victims from recovering compensation.
Fortunately, once the Camp Lejeune Justice Act becomes law, the North Carolina statute of repose will be circumvented and victims will be able to file lawsuits in federal court. The CLJA has been merged into the Honoring Our Pact Act (HOPA) and will likely be signed into law in the summer of 2022. This law will enable victims to finally seek compensation for their damages.
Who Is Eligible to File a Lawsuit?
If the CLJA does not undergo any significant changes before it is signed into law, claimants will have two years from the date the law is enacted to file their lawsuit for compensation. In order to file, you must prove that you were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and later developed an illness linked to exposure.
If you qualify, you will be able to file a tort lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
How Much Will a Camp Lejeune Settlement Be?
Claimants will be eligible to receive all compensatory damages commonly available in tort cases, including both economic and non-economic damages. However, any amount awarded will be offset against any VA benefits already received for these damages.
Calculating an accurate figure for how much you can expect to receive at this time is impossible. There are still too many factors that need to be considered and too much uncertainty remaining around these cases. However, prior cases involving similar injuries often result in settlements in the range of $150,000 to $400,000.
It is important to note that these figures are based on injuries and do not take into account the politics of a class action lawsuit against the government. The sample size for these types of cases is far smaller, and makes an accurate settlement estimate much harder to predict.
Previous Lawsuits Involving Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The multi-district litigation (MDL) involving 850 plaintiffs that was dismissed in 2016 began in 2009 when a group of Marines, along with their family members and other employees at Camp Lejeune began filing lawsuits against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The plaintiffs asserted that they developed severe health conditions as a result of drinking contaminated water from the base. All of these lawsuits were then consolidated into the MDL class action lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina in 2012.
Once the CLJA passes, many of these claimants or their families will once again file a lawsuit against the government for their exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
The First Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
The first lawsuit against the government over exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune was brought in July of 2007 by Laura J. Jones. Jones filed an initial administrative complaint with the Department of the Navy (a requirement for bringing a Federal Tort Claim Act case) and then filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Jones, the wife of a Marine Corps Corporal, lived at Camp Lejeune in base housing from 1980 to 1983. In her original lawsuit, she alleged that she was exposed to chemicals including TCE, PCE, dichloroethane (DCE), vinyl chloride, and benzene through the water supply at the base. She claimed that exposure to these chemicals led her to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Before eventually being dismissed over North Carolina’s statute of repose law, Jones’ case survived an earlier motion to dismiss brought by the government stating that she was time-barred under the Federal Tort Claims Act’s statute of limitations. However, this motion was dismissed when the court asserted that the USMC did not do enough to inform potential victims.
Has a Class Action Lawsuit Already Been Filed?
There is not currently a Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit in the process because until the new legislation passes, the case would be dismissed. However, as soon as the CLJA passes, new lawsuits will begin rolling in, which will likely be consolidated into an MDL class action lawsuit.
Support for consolidation into a class action lawsuit will likely be strong on both sides as this will make litigation cheaper and ease the process of reaching a global settlement compensation deal.
Speak With a Camp Lejeune Lawyer Today
Even though the CLJA has not yet passed, it is not too early to get started on your case. At John Foy & Associates, we are talking to victims of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune now, so we will be ready to get lawsuits filed as soon as the new legislation is signed into law.
If you or a loved one were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and have since been diagnosed with a related illness, contact us today. Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to get started with a free consultation.
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