The U.S. Navy has said nearly 5,000 claims have been filed over contaminated water at North Carolina Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune within one month of Congress passing a new law that removed roadblocks for plaintiffs. According to a Reuters news report, this has created the potential for one of the largest mass litigations in US history.
The claims, filed with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit in Norfolk, Virginia, are the first step for Marines and their family members to seek compensation for harm from contaminated drinking water
on the base between 1953 and 1987. This is under the new process outlined in the PACT Act, a veterans’ healthcare and benefits bill signed by President Joe Biden on Aug. 10. Officials said about 5,000 administrative claims had been filed since the legislation was signed.
Lawyers Expect Half a Million Claims to Be Filed
Lawyers representing those affected by the tainted Camp Lejeune water
expect that number to climb even higher. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about one million may have been exposed to the tainted water, and the expectation is that up to 500,000 claims could be filed. Attorneys reported filing hundreds if not thousands of claims just in the first day or first week after the law passed. The legislation essentially opens up a two-year period for military members and their families to file claims based on exposures to toxic chemicals, including chloride and benzene. Marines who served on the base, their family members, and even contractors who lived and/or worked there during that time period are eligible to file. Federal health officials have acknowledged that the chemicals likely increased the risk of cancer and other serious health problems for residents. But the government has relied on a 2016 court opinion to deny all claims up to this point, citing the government’s sovereign immunity. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act exempts the claims from governmental immunity protections. It allows plaintiffs to file lawsuits in the Eastern District of North Caroline once they have completed the administrative process.
What Diseases Have Been Linked to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination?
Some of the diseases linked to water contamination at Camp Lejeune include:
- · Leukemia
- · Aplastic anemia
- · Cancers of the bladder, kidney, and liver
- · Multiple myeloma
- · Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- · Parkinson’s disease
Contamination occurred at the Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant and the Hadnot Point Treatment Plant. The chemicals believed to have caused these diseases are as follows: Tetrachloroethylene:
Used as a cleaner and degreaser, this chemical could also be used as a start to build or compound other chemicals. Trichloroethylene:
This is a colorless liquid used in dry and machine cleaning plants. People who come into contact with this chemical must wear protective gear to limit exposure. Benzene:
is a colorless chemical used to manufacture pesticides, detergents, and other materials. Vinyl chloride:
This chemical is used to make plastic and packing material.
Who is Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
Under the law, anyone who has lived, worked, or has been otherwise exposed to the contaminated drinking water for 30 days or more between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, may be eligible to file a damages claim. You may have a claim whether you were a military member, family members of veterans who lived on the base, or civilians who worked on the base, such as contractors. Also, under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, a relative or legal representative can file a claim on behalf of a living or deceased person who was exposed to contaminated water during the specified period. Such representatives may include the affected person’s parent, child, spouse or sibling.
What Does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Mean for Victims and Families?
Camp Lejeune veterans and family members affected by the contaminated water have been fighting for justice for more than three decades to seek justice and compensation for their tremendous losses. With the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the hurdles have been cleared for them. Previous legal loopholes that protected the federal government from lawsuits related to the camp’s contaminated water supply have been removed. If you or a loved one was exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, an experienced personal injury lawyer could help you better understand your legal rights and options. You may be able to file a claim under the new law.