Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuits for Veterans and Their Families
August 18, 2022
The U.S. Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, is located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Camp Lejeune was established in 1940 during the emergence of World War II and has been an active Marine base since its inception. The United States Government and Marine Corps have benefited greatly from the geographic and logistical benefits of Camp Lejeune. According to the United States Marine Corps:
The value of this land to the Marine Corps has grown over the years as men and women have trained to fight wars in the Pacific Islands, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. Camp Lejeune has also proven invaluable for the training and deployment of Marines for such actions as peacekeeping in Lebanon, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel missions, drug interdiction missions and a host of noncombatant evacuation operations. The idea of Special Operations Capable Marine Expeditionary Units was born at Camp Lejeune and Marines here continue to make strides toward the future of warfare in such areas as urban and riverine operations. Camp Lejeune and the satellite facilities at Camp Geiger, Camp Johnson, Courthouse Bay, Stone Bay and the Greater Sandy Run Training Area have an historic value that goes beyond their national strategic importance.
Contamination and Hazards at Camp Lejeune
Despite Camp Lejeune’s historical and tactical significance, it has been discovered that people living or working at Camp Lejeune could have been exposed to dangerous drinking water contaminated with benzene, industrial solvents, and other chemicals.
From 1953 to 1987, two of the eight wells at Camp Lejeune were found contaminated with harmful chemicals known to cause cancer and other illnesses. The wells at Camp Lejeune supplied drinking water to military servicemembers, civilian workers, patients in the hospital, military families for drinking and bathing, and to children in school and daycare. The contamination at Camp Lejeune has impacted thousands of families. For these individuals who were serving their country, they have been plagued by catastrophic suffering, illnesses, permanent disabilities, and loss of life.
After a series of investigations and testing at Camp Lejeune, the two on-base water wells that were shut down in 1985 due to the discovery of contamination by dangerous amounts of:
If you served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune or Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina, you may have had contact with contaminants in the drinking water there. Scientific and medical evidence has shown an association between exposure to these contaminants during military service and development of certain diseases later on.
The First Laws Surrounding Camp Lejeune Claims
In 2012, the United States passed the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 that provided for disability compensation to veterans, service members, and guardsmen who resided or worked at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 and suffered illnesses or injuries related to the contaminated water supply.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to be eligible for disability benefits under the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, you would need meet all of these requirements.
Both of these must be true:
You served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 cumulative days from August 1953 through December 1987, and
You did not receive a dishonorable discharge when you separated from the military
And you must have a diagnosis of one or more of these presumptive conditions:
Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
In accordance with the 2012 Camp Lejeune health care law, the VA was supposed to provide cost-free health care for certain conditions to Veterans who served at least 30 days of active duty at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987.
The qualifying health conditions included:
The Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 was meant to provide automatic disability benefits and health coverage. The Act also provided for the coverage or reimbursement of prior out-of-pocket healthcare costs associated with the conditions listed above. It required affected people to file a claim for disability compensation and provide the following evidence and supporting documents:
Your military records showing you served at Camp Lejeune or MCAS New River for at least 30 days from August 1953 through December 1987 while on active duty, or in the National Guard or Reserves, and
Medical records stating that you have 1 or more of the 8 illnesses on the presumptive conditions list (see above)
The Act was also supposed to provide the same benefits, healthcare, and coverage to families of veterans. Unfortunately, the claims system in place through the VA resulted in widespread denials of claim benefits and coverage and was heavily litigated over the past 10 years.
The Current Laws Surrounding Camp Lejeune Claims
After failures of implementation of the 2012 Act, the United States Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2021 in March of 2022. Under this Congressional Act, people who resided or worked at Camp Lejeune are afforded the right to bring claims against the United States government for injuries sustained from drinking the water at Camp Lejeune.
As Sec. 2 states:
(a) IN GENERAL.—An individual, including a veteran, or the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning August 1, 1953, and ending December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune that was supplied by the United States or on its behalf may bring an action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to obtain appropriate relief for harm which—
(1) was caused by exposure to the water; (2) was associated with exposure to the water; (3) was linked to exposure to the water; or (4) the exposure to the water increased the likelihood of such harm.
The new law provides the opportunity for affected people to bring lawsuits against the United States and the Marines to seek damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
(b) BURDEN AND STANDARD OF PROOF.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—The burden of proof shall be on the party filing the action to show one or more relationship between the water and the harm described in paragraphs (1) through (4) of subsection (a) by a preponderance of the evidence.
(2) USE OF STUDIES.—A study conducted on humans or animals, or from an epidemiological study, which ruled out chance and bias with able confidence and which concluded, with sufficient evidence, that exposure to the water described in subsection (a) is one possible cause of the harm, shall be sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof described under paragraph (1).
(c) EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION AND VENUE.—The district court for the Eastern District of North Carolina shall have exclusive jurisdiction over any action under this section, and shall be the exclusive venue for such an action. Nothing in this subsection shall impair any party’s right to a trial by jury.
(d) EXCLUSIVE REMEDY.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—An individual who brings an action under this section for an injury, including a latent disease, may not thereafter bring a tort action pursuant to any other law against the United States for such harm.
(2) NO EFFECT ON DISABILITY BENEFITS.— Any award under this section shall have not impede or limit the individual’s continued or future entitlement to disability awards, payments, or benefits under any Veteran’s Administration program.
Importantly, the law does not permit the United States to claim immunity as it otherwise would in tort claims filed against it.
(e) IMMUNITY LIMITATION.—The United States may not assert any claim to immunity in an action under this section which would otherwise be available under section2680(a) of title 28, United States Code.
(f) NO PUNITIVE DAMAGES.—Punitive damages may not be awarded in any action under this Act.
(g) DISPOSITION BY FEDERAL AGENCY REQUIRED.—An individual may not bring an action under this section prior to complying with section 2675 of title 28, United States Code.
(h) ATTORNEY FEES.—Attorney fees for services provided to an individual seeking a remedy under this section shall be in accordance with section 2678 of title 28, United States Code.
(i) EXCEPTION FOR COMBATANT ACTIVITIES.—This section does not apply to any claim or action arising out of the combatant activities of the Armed Forces.
(j) PERIOD FOR FILING.—(1) IN GENERAL.—The statute of limitations for an action under this section is the later of—(A) 2 years from the date on which the harm occurred or was discovered, whichever is later; or (B) 180 days from the date on which the claim is denied under section 2675 of title 28, United States Code.
Filing a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit is likely the only means individuals and families have to obtain the compensation they deserve for suffering, damages and loss related to diseases and injuries at Camp Lejeune. This law is important because it reaches beyond the formerly offered remedies of disability benefits and medical treatment. This law gives families a chance to seek compensation that they would otherwise be able to seek against a private company or tortfeasor.
If you or a loved one suffered one of the above-listed diseases or injuries related to water contamination at Camp Lejeune, please contact top-rated water contamination injury attorneys at Morrow & Sheppard LLP for a free, confidential consultation on your potential claims.
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