Between 1953 and 1987, tap water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was contaminated with harmful chemicals at concentrations from 240 to 3400 times levels permitted by safety standards. Service members and their families bathed in and ingested this contaminated water, potentially causing serious health conditions, including cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Following years and years of investigations and (generally unsuccessful) litigation, on August 8, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022. Section 804 of the PACT Act, known as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, provides a remedy to those who have suffered injury or death due to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
What is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (“Camp Lejeune Act”) allows individuals, or their legal representatives, to file a lawsuit “to obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.”
Prior to the enactment of the Camp Lejeune Act, lawsuits regarding exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune faced a number of challenges. For instance, in 2016, a federal court ruled that several claims, joined in multi-district litigation, were barred by North Carolina’s statute of repose, which disallows personal injury claims ten years after they accrue. The same court also ruled that the claims were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
The Camp Lejeune Act remedied this problem. Under Section 804(f), the United States cannot assert sovereign immunity as a defense. Under Section 804(j), individuals harmed by being exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune generally have until August 8, 2024, to file their claims, and other statutes of repose or limitations do not apply. In short, Congress wanted to assure that all victims of the toxic water at Camp Lejeune have the opportunity to file claims.
Who Can File a Claim Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?
In order to file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Act, you must have resided, worked, or otherwise been exposed (including in utero exposure) to water at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and harmed as a result. Thus, potential claimants also include those whose mothers were pregnant with them and resided at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. The claim may be filed by either the harmed individual or their legal representative.
What is the Process to File a Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Lawsuit?
First, an administrative claim must be filed with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (“TCU”) in Norfolk, Virginia. If the TCU denies the claim or the TCU fails to make a decision within six months, the claimant harmed by being exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune can file a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Act. The lawsuit can only be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
At the moment, lawsuits brought under the Camp Lejeune Act in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina appear to be proceeding on an individual basis, assigned to different judges. However, as more and more individuals harmed by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune become eligible to file lawsuits, it is likely that the Camp Lejeune caes will be consolidated under a single judge.
The Camp Lejeune Act provides for a statute of limitations of two years from the time it was signed into law; in other words, August 8, 2024. However, if the TCU denies the administrative claim, a lawsuit may be filed within 180 days, even if that date would be later than August 24, 2022.
How Do I Win a Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Lawsuit?
Individuals harmed by being exposed to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune have the burden to prove the relationship between the water at Camp Lejeune and the harm they have suffered or are suffering. To do so, they must produce evidence sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship between the water at Camp Lejeune and the harm exists or is at least as likely as not. This is a favorable standard for claimants, slightly less demanding than the preponderance of the evidence standard applicable to most personal injury cases.
Scientific and medical evidence has shown an association between exposure to the contaminants present in the water at Camp Lejeune and numerous health conditions, including:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
It is important to note, however, that any award of money made under the Camp Lejeune Act must be offset by any disability award, payment, or benefit provided under the laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, or Medicaid that related to exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.
Fishwick & Associates: Fighting for Individuals Harmed by Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune
If you or a loved one were at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, for more than 30 days and subsequently developed a serious health condition such as cancer, leukemia, or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, act fast, because there are only approximately two years to file claims. The Virginia attorneys at Fishwick & Associates can help you understand your legal options and navigate your claims, including filing a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Act for damages.
Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, 117 P.L. 168, 2022 Enacted S 3373, 117 Enacted S 3373, 136 Stat. 1759.
In re Camp Lejeune N.C. Water Contamination Litig., 263 F. Supp. 3d 1318 (N.D. Ga. 2016).
28 U.S.C. § 1407.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.