A new law to help victims of water contamination at the Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune will pass to allow lawsuits to be filed to get compensation for injury and death resulting from the contamination. Previously lawsuits could not be filed due to various statutes of limitations. The Camp LeJeune Justice Act of 2022 is groundbreaking for all victims and supersedes these statutes.
You have options if you were a Marine at Camp LeJeune between 1953 and 1987. You need a lawyer from George Sink PA, Injury Lawyers on your side.
What Legislation Has Passed?
It has taken a lot of upheavals to get to this point, and injury victims see the light at the end of this heart-wrenching tunnel. As of June 30, 2022, only one provision is holding back the bill’s final passage. The provision is unrelated to the Camp LeJeune lawsuit and can easily be removed or revised so the final bill can pass.
Once Congress returns from its recess in July, the bill is on track to pass. While victims will have to wait a bit longer, there are some steps you can take now to prepare. You can begin to work with a Camp LeJeune water contamination attorney to collect evidence and documentation to build your case.
While no official legal documents can be filed, you can begin to prepare. The process has been slow-moving, with many hurdles and postponements, and for victims, this is beyond frustrating. A significant step forward was on June 17, 2022, when the Senate passed the Honoring Our Pact Act.
Sadly, while this was a victory, it was short-lived because the Senate and House passed a different version of the bill, and the reconciliation process began. This bill is much needed because the laws in North Carolina, where the base is located, blocked any legal action from victims. Federal law is necessary to get justice for the thousands of injury victims who are now suffering from lifelong medical conditions.
What Is the Camp LeJeune Water Contamination?
In 1942, Camp LeJeune became a Marine Corps military base and training facility. It makes up 250 square miles. The base is located in Onslow County, North Carolina.
While the Marines are the primary branch to use the base, all other military units have also used the base at some point. The water contamination was uncovered when they did testing on two water treatment plants. Hadnot Point Treatment plant and Tarawa Terrace water plant were the culprits of the contamination for various reasons.
These water treatment plants were the key supplier of water to the base for several years, starting in the 1950s. Estimates show that 750,000 people had direct exposure to toxic chemicals. Known as the worst contamination of public water in United States history, the water at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, had high levels of carcinogenic chemicals.
Thousands of Marines, families, and civilians lived and worked on the base during the contamination. They drank, bathed, and swam in the water. There were 70 toxic chemicals in the water, which caused severe and life-altering diseases.
What Chemicals Were the Cause of Contamination?
While there were 70 chemicals found in the water, three are a significant cause for concern. The volatile organic compounds: are perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and trichloroethylene (TCE). These chemicals cause cancer, birth defects, and other severe conditions that result in permanent impairment or death.
TCE came from the Hadnot Point water treatment facility, and PCE came from the Tarawa Terrace water treatment plant. TCE is used as a degreaser to make refrigerants. The levels of TCE from the Hadnot Point treatment plant were at 1,400 parts per billion (ppb).
In comparison, PCE is a fabric solvent used for dry-cleaning. PCE levels were at 215 ppb, 43 times the safe limit. Studies of the water go down in history as the worst ever seen.
What Injuries Did the Contamination Cause?
Residents of Camp LeJeune now suffer from a myriad of conditions: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney, bladder cancer, leukemia, and anemia. There are many other conditions you may have, including:
- Fatty liver disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity
- Immune disorders
- Brain damage
- Hepatic steatosis
- Aplastic anemia
- Cardiac defect
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
All studies show that continued exposure to these chemicals increases the risk of complications and death. Studies are still ongoing.
Are Birth Defects Common?
There were thousands of pregnant women on the base during the thirty-year period where the water was contaminated. These women unknowingly were poisoning themselves and their unborn fetus. When women did carry to term, there was a higher chance of birth defects.
The most common was a significant rate of neural tube birth defects. Unborn fetuses exposed to the contaminated water during the first trimester had a five-time higher risk of a birth defect if they made it to term. These injuries are permanent, and the condition will appear upon birth and stay with the child well into adulthood.
Individuals born between 1968 and 1985 were the focus of a study by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
What Did the Military Do?
You would assume that the military did everything possible to protect residents from harm. After all, military members and their families undergo enough danger and hardship they do not need anymore. Sadly, the U.S. Marine Corps knew about the contamination for years and did nothing to resolve the issues.
They instead chose to ignore the danger and, at one point, tried to hide the contamination. In 1981, the U.S. marine corp received notice that the water was highly contaminated; the USMC did nothing in response. In 1982 the same testing facility sent another study and report to the USMC addressing the water contamination; yet again, the USMC did nothing.
There were additional warnings in 1982 and 1983 to no avail. What the USMC did in 1983 was submit a report to the EPA stating that there was no contamination in the water. The EPA requested an official report and the USMC blatantly refused, prompting the EPA to conduct its testing.
In 1984 after much pressure from the EPA, the USMC finally shut down water wells. Even so, the USMC did not fully state the issues with the water to North Carolina officials, which prompted a formal investigation by the Department of Justice in 2005.
What Are Camp LeJeune Water Contamination Settlement Amounts?
Since the Camp LeJeune water contamination bill has not yet passed, there is no baseline to how much your case is worth. Once the bill passes, victims will have the opportunity to obtain compensation for their injuries and losses from this crisis. There is a stipulation that victims only have two years to file a claim once the bill passes.
Claimants will file a civil lawsuit with a federal court in North Carolina. The process is complex without the help of a Camp LeJeune water contamination attorney in South Carolina and Georgia. Many Marine families wonder if they can file a claim even though their loved one has passed.
Families of marines and others on base during the timeframe can file a wrongful death lawsuit if they can prove the deceased was a resident of Camp LeJeune between 1953 and 1987. They must also show that the deceased suffered a medical condition from contamination. You do not need to prove that their death resulted from the contamination – an extraordinary time has passed, and many victims are no longer alive to tell their stories.
Damages You Can Seek
Plaintiffs can obtain compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. All claimants who file a claim must prove they suffered a medical condition during their time at Camp LeJeune and did, in fact, work or live on base during the years of contamination. This case is considered a tort case, so compensation is slightly different than personal injury cases.
The compensation amount will be affected if you receive or have received VA benefit payments for the same condition. Through the experience with other cases with similar conditions, attorneys can estimate how much compensation awards will be. Still, there is no official way of knowing until the bill passes and the first case settles.
Even prior cases do not paint a complete picture because the lawsuit is against the federal government, unlike any other case. A bill like this will garner significant settlement awards; it is also unlikely that these cases will go to trial, so compensation can be easier to obtain.
What Results Have These Cases Had?
Previously, many Marines attempted to take legal action against these egregious actions. They filed lawsuits under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the harm they suffered from living on base. There were 850 lawsuits filed which were then consolidated into a Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) in the Eastern District Court of North Carolina in 2012.
North Carolina has a ten-year statute of repose which led to the dismissal of these cases. The first Camp LeJeune water contamination lawsuit was filed in 2007 by the wife of a Marine Corps Corporal who developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). Another case was filed in 2011 by a former Marine on base between 1957 and 1959 who now has male breast cancer that spread to his lungs.
While these cases did not have favorable results due to the statute of repose, there will be many more with similar stories.
How do I File a Claim?
While you cannot file a claim just yet, when the Senate passes the bill, you must file a tort lawsuit. You must file the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. No matter where you currently reside in the U.S., you will have the ability to file a claim by contacting a local attorney.
You need a Camp LeJeune water contamination attorney with experience handling tort cases. These are very complex cases; not every attorney you speak with knows how the process works. While the federal government is opening up the opportunity for victims to file claims, that does not mean the process will be simple.
As with any legal matter, handling a claim independently can result in a dismissal or denial, even if you are eligible to obtain compensation.
Is There a Camp LeJeune Class Action Lawsuit?
The new law allows victims across the country to file lawsuits, and a class-action case is also possible. There is no current avenue for a class action lawsuit. However, Camp LeJeune attorneys in South Carolina, Georgia, and across the country are working to study the possible outcomes and provisions they will need to work through to get victims the compensation they are entitled to.
The likely outcome will be that as these lawsuits begin to reach the Eastern District of North Carolina, there will be a move to consolidate them. The consolation will result in a multidistrict case, making litigation easier on both fronts. A panel will likely review the consolidation request and approve an MDL class action lawsuit.
Many victims believe a consolation will hurt their claim, but it can help in the long term. It can make it easier to reach a global settlement and can be more cost-effective. The more money these cases save, the better it will be for all victims who file a claim.
However, you should always consult with your Camp LeJeune water contamination attorney to ensure you take the best steps for your circumstances.
Hire an Experienced Attorney for Your Case
Many Marines and their families were made to believe these conditions resulted from something other than the water contamination on base. George Sink PA, Injury Lawyers knows how important these cases are to getting justice for victims who have been suffering for decades with no answers. Our firm respects and offers superior care to our clients, especially our military.
Working on a contingency fee basis, you do not see any fees unless we win and are known to win big. Do not trust just anyone with your Camp LeJeune water contamination lawsuit. Contact George Sink PA, Injury Lawyers for more information today.