Eligible for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Camp Lejeune Plaintiffs Seek Partial Summary Judgment on Issue of Specific Causation For Each Claimant’s Injury
Plaintiffs pursuing Camp Lejeune injury lawsuits have filed a motion for partial summary judgment in the litigation, asking the U.S. District Judges presiding over the cases to establish that each claimant is only be required to prove that they were on the North Carolina military base for 30 days during the period of time that contaminants were in the water, which are known to cause their injury.
Nearly 150,000 individuals have filed claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022, which President Joe Biden signed into law a year and a half ago, opening a two-year window for lawsuits to be brought by anyone injured by contaminated water at the base.
The legislation only requires that claimants establish they were exposed to water at Camp Lejeune for at least a 30 day period between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and that a causal relationship between the claimed injury and Camp Lejeune water is “at least as likely as not.”
Camp Lejeune Justice Act Lawsuits
Although the U.S. government has acknowledged that water at the Marine base was contaminated with chemicals known to cause various types of cancer and other injuries, the new legislation was enacted since all previous claims brought by military veterans, family members and others working at the base were barred under doctrines of qualified immunity or the North Carolina statute of limitations, which had already expired by the time problems with the water were discovered.
Lawsuits have now been filed by individuals diagnosed with dozens of different injuries known to be caused by toxic chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune, including various types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, fertility problems and other injuries, and it is widely expected that the litigation will become one of the largest mass torts in U.S. history by the time the filing window closes in August 2024.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
While the U.S. government has offered an elective Camp Lejeune settlement option, providing guaranteed tiers of compensation for veterans and their families if they suffered certain medical conditions, such as kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease and systemic sclerosis, many claimants do not qualify for this settlement offer, or intend to pursue additional compensation through the U.S. court system.
To help promote further settlement negotiations and establish an average amount for Camp Lejeune lawsuit payouts in different cases, the Court has established a bellwether process, where cases involving several different types of injuries are being prepared for early trial.
Camp Lejeune Plaintiffs Seek Partial Summary Judgment
On January 15, plaintiffs filed a motion for pretrial summary judgment (PDF) on the issue of specific causation, noting that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) only requires that each plaintiff establish 30 days exposure and that it is as likely as not that their condition is generally caused by chemicals known to be in the water.
“The CLJA creates a novel blend of tort and administrative procedures. On the one hand, the CLJA waives sovereign immunity, waives statutes of limitations and repose, creates a cause of action under federal law enabling plaintiffs to bring a tort claim against the United States in court, and preserves the right to jury trials,” plaintiffs wrote in an accompanying memorandum (PDF). “On the other hand, the CLJA requires that all claims first proceed through an administrative process, bars punitive damages, and—critically here—provides a special, simplified method of proving causation.”
Plaintiffs maintain that requiring each individual claimant to establish that their specific injury was caused by their exposure to specific chemicals would dramatically lengthen the litigation process, and is contrary to the intentions of the U.S. legislature and President Biden when the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was enacted.
“(E)ven if the tools of statutory interpretation left the causation question open, the Court should grant the motion under the Veteran’s Canon. This Canon provides that because Congress consistently intends to protect veterans, where a statute is unclear, courts best effectuate congressional intent by construing the statute in the way that favors the interests of veterans,” the memorandum states. “Here, granting the motion undoubtedly furthers veterans’ interests.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has not yet filed a response to the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, outlining their position on the issue of specific causation. However, even if each claimant were only provided a one-day trial, it would take hundreds of years for the courts to resolve each individual lawsuit.
January 2024 Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Update
According to a joint status report (PDF) submitted by the parties, there are currently at least 158,252 administrative claims on file with the Department of Navy under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which requires each claimant to notify the Navy of their claim and wait at least 180 days before filing a lawsuit.
Only about 1,483 Camp Lejeune lawsuits have actually been filed in court after going through this administrative process. However, a flood of complaints are expected over the remainder of 2024.
To establish an initial bellwether pool, the parties are currently working to select 100 representative cases, spread evenly across claims involving the following categories of injuries:
- Bladder Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
It is expected that the court will the schedule a series of trials involving each injury, to help the parties gauge how juries or judges will respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
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