Eligible for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Initial Camp Lejeune Water Lawsuit Status Conference To Be Held Oct. 30
The four U.S. District judges presiding over all Camp Lejeune water lawsuits have scheduled an initial status conference with lawyers for October 30, 2023, and indicate that bi-weekly meetings to manage the rapidly growing litigation.
Tens of thousands of claims have been presented under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 since it went into effect last year, opening a two-year window for lawsuits to be filed by individuals injured by contaminated water on the North Carolina military base between the mid-1950s and late 1980s.
The lawsuits involve dozens of different injuries that were allegedly caused by toxic chemicals that contaminated 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
Camp Lejeune Status Conference
The legislation that authorized the Camp Lejeune water lawsuits requires that each claim be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, where four separate judges are working together to preside over the proceedings, including Judges Richard E. Myers II, Terrence W. Boyle, Louise W. Flanagan and James C. Dever III.
Early in the proceedings, the Court established a Master Docket for all Camp Lejeune lawsuits, and a group of plaintiffs lawyers were appointed to serve in various leadership positions, taking actions during the pretrial litigation that benefit all plaintiffs.
In a court order (PDF) issued on October 19, the four judges announced that an initial case management conference will be held on October 30. Following that conference, the Court indicates that additional Camp Lejeune lawsuit status conferences will be held on the first and third Tuesday of every month.
At each status conference, the parties have been advised to be prepared to discuss the number of status of Camp Lejeune water lawsuits filed so far, as well as the number of administrative claims that have been presented to the U.S. Department of Navy, which must be done at least 180 days before a complaint is filed in Court. In addition, the parties must update the cout on any stipulations entered since the last status conference, provide a summary of discovery conducted and outline progress on any individual or global Camp Lejeune settlement efforts.
To help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout large numbers of claims, the judges established a Camp Lejeune bellwether process earlier this month, which calls for the first cases to be ready to go before juries sometime next year. The parties will select 100 cases overall, spread evenly across claims involving the following categories of injuries:
- Bladder Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
While the outcome of the early Camp Lejeune bellwether trials will not have a binding impact on other claims, the amount of any lawsuit payouts awarded may help the parties determine how juries will respond in future cases and facilitate settlement negotiations for different categories of injuries.
Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Elective Settlement Option
As part of an effort to provide some claimants an opportunity to resolve their claims early in the litigation process, the Department of Justice and U.S. Navy announced an elective Camp Lejeune settlement option last month, providing guaranteed tiers of compensation for veterans and their families if they suffered specific medical conditions, including kidney cancer, liver cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemias, bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease and systemic sclerosis.
The settlement covered illnesses and conditions linked to Camp Lejeune water, which the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry (ATSDR) previously identified as having a high level of evidence establishing a causal link. However, a number of plaintiffs are expected to reject the offer, and there is a great deal of evidence linking various other injuries and illnesses to Camp Lejeune water, which will leave many claims needing to be resolved through the U.S. court system.
The Camp Lejeune Elective Option would provide settlements ranging from about $100,000 to $550,000, for individuals who suffered any of the included ailments. However, the Department of Justice notes that claimants who do not qualify because they have not suffered those specific injuries may still file a claim and seek relief from the U.S. Navy.
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