Denied Camp Lejeune Injury Claims Must Be Resubmitted Under New Act, U.S. Government Argues

The government argues that denied Camp Lejeune injury claims were never assessed under the requirements of the new law

  • Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allows veterans and family members to file claims over damages caused by toxic water at the Marine base between 1950s and 1980s
  • Law requires notice of potential claims be provided to U.S. government before a lawsuit is filed
  • Days after Act went into effect, lawsuits were filed by plaintiffs with previously denied Camp Lejeune injury claims
  • U.S. government now argues those individuals must restart their administrative review process
  • LEARN MORE ABOUT CAMP LEJEUNE WATER CONTAMINATION LAWSUITS

The U.S. government indicates that all previously denied Camp Lejeune injury claims still need to be resubmitted under the requirements of the recently passed Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, urging a federal judge to reject arguments raised by a number of plaintiffs, who claim they should not be required to exhausted administrative remedies again.

Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, which was plagued with water contamination problems between the 1950s and 1980s, which exposed millions of service members, family members and other individuals to toxic chemicals in the drinking water.

Although various cancers and other devastating injuries have been directly linked to contaminants in the water, by the time the extent of the problems were discovered, the ten-year North Carolina statute of limitations allowed the U.S. government to deny all claims, and hundreds of prior lawsuits were dismissed.

On August 10, President Biden signed landmark new legislation, which corrected the federal governments failure to compensate veterans and military family members, opening a two year window for Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits to be filed to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which has been granted exclusive jurisdiction over the claims.

Learn More About Camp Lejeune lawsuits

Water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 caused cancers, birth defects, miscarriages and other side effects for U.S. Marines and their family members.

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Prior to filing a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the new law requires each claimant provide notice of their claim to the U.S. Navy, which must deny the claim in writing or fail to resolve the claim within six months. However, individuals who previously submitted Camp Lejeune claims that were denied by the U.S. Government immediately reinitiated their lawsuits, arguing that the notice requirements of the Act were satisfied when they originally presented their claims years ago.

Previously Denied Camp Lejeune Claims were Properly Filed, Plaintiffs Argue

Within days after President Biden signed the Honoring Our PACT Act in August 2022, dozens of individuals filed lawsuits under the new law, seeking damages for injuries caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, which had previously been denied by the U.S. government. However, those plaintiffs indicated that they were pursuing claims under the new Act based upon administrative notice provided prior to the new law going into effect.

In September, U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III raised questions about whether these early plaintiffs complied with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act requirements, calling for evidence to be presented to establish how each claim was submitted and the date the U.S. government denied the claim under the Act, together with a brief explaining how an administrative claim brought before the Act was passed complies with the new requirements.

In response, plaintiffs filed a memorandum on October 21, indicating that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act requires nothing more than the filing of a claim with the U.S. Navy setting forth the facts that led to a plaintiff’s injury and a demand for a sum of money, which each plaintiff did years ago. Therefore, they indicate there is nothing in the new law that requires they must go through the same administrative process again.

U.S. Government Argues Plaintiffs With Denied Claims Must Restart Process

The U.S. government filed a response (PDF) to plaintiffs’ memorandum on November 10, arguing that the new Camp Lejeune Justice Act requires each plaintiff to provide new notice of their claim under the law, and once again exhaust the administrative requirements.

“Plaintiffs admit that they have not exhausted their claims after the [Camp Lejeune Justice Act] CLJA’s enactment,” according to the response. “Instead, Plaintiffs assert that the prior submission of a claim years before enactment of the CLJA is sufficient to satisfy the CLJA’s administrative exhaustion requirement, even though the Navy never had the opportunity to evaluate the claim under the standards of the CLJA.”

According to the brief, the government never got to evaluate or assess the claims under the standards provided by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, and indicate that the prior injury claims were denied on grounds that have since been nullified by the new law.

However, Plaintiffs say the Act never created the need for a new claim to be exhausted, but instead is meant to “vindicate” a preexisting claim already filed with the courts. The plaintiffs’ memorandum included documents showing previous claims and denials on behalf of each of the plaintiffs who filed early lawsuits.

Plaintiffs have until November 17, this Thursday, to file a final reply before Judge Dever determines whether the claims should be denied without prejudice, requiring each plaintiff to reinitiate the notice of their claims and wait yet another six months before filing a lawsuit.

Camp Lejeune Justice Act Filing Requirements

In addition to allowing previously denied claims to move forward, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act also allows any individual, or surviving family members, to pursue settlement benefits for injuries caused by contaminated water on the base, even if they never previously attempted to pursue a claim.

For new cases, the Act requires that notice of the Camp Lejeune water contamination claim must be provided to the U.S. Navy under the requirements of 28 U.S. Code § 2675.

The U.S. Navy JAG Corps has posted information about how to file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, outlining the required steps needed to file a Camp Lejeune water lawsuit.

Each claimant must include a Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claim form (PDF), providing specific information about their lawsuit, including:

  • Status at time of exposure to Camp Lejeune water (Member of the Armed Forces; Military Family Member or Dependent; Civil Service Employee; Civilian; Contractor Working for Private Company on Base; Unborn Individual Exposed In Utero)
  • Where you resided at the time of exposure (Terawa Terrace Housing; Hospital Point Housing; Other On-Base Housing; Outside of Camp Lejeune)
  • Whether you worked at Hadnot Point Industrial Area in Camp Lejeune
  • Nature of your injury (Personal Injury Caused by Water at Camp Lejeune; Wrongful Death Following Exposure to Camp Lejeune Water)
  • Specific type of cancer or other injury that is the basis of the Camp Lejeune lawsuit

The form also requires that each individual specify the amount of their Camp Lejeune claim in U.S. dollars, certifying that it will be accepted as a full and final Camp Lejeune water settlement amount if offered by the U.S. Government. Failure to specify the total amount of damages sought from the Camp Lejeune water contamination during this process may result in a forfeiture of their rights.

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