Eligible for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Plaintiffs Who Filed Early Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Ordered To Establish They Complied With Requirements of PACT Act
Within days after President Biden signed the Honoring Our PACT Act in August 2022, dozens of Camp Lejeune lawsuits were filed seeking damages for injuries caused by contaminated water at the base between 1953 and 1987. However, a federal judge has recently questioned whether several of these early claims complied with notice requirements under the new law.
Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, which was plagued with water contamination problems that exposed millions of service members, family members and other individuals to toxic chemicals between the mid-1950s and late-1980s.
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 North Carolina statute of limitations barred any claims from being pursued against the U.S. government for injuries suffered by individuals who drank and bathed in the water.
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.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
According to the requirements of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which was signed into law on August 10, notice of each claim must be filed with the U.S. Department of the Navy, and a lawsuit can only be filed after the claim is rejected in writing or the government fails to make a final disposition within six months.
The U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) office reported last month that notice of at least 5,000 Camp Lejeune water contamination claims were filed during the first few weeks after the new law went into effect. However, there have also been several dozen lawsuits filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina by individuals who previously presented claims against the U.S. Government under the federal tort claims act, which were denied.
Lawsuits Under Camp Lejeune Justice Act May Have Been Premature
One of the first Camp Lejeune lawsuits filed after the passage of the PACT Act was a joint complaint (PDF) the same day the new law was signed, involving claims for John Belt, Jr., Joyce Luken, representing the estate of John B. Luken, and Beverly McClain, on behalf of herself and the estate of Rudy McClain. Each of the plaintiffs indicated that they, or their deceased family members, developed liver cancer after they were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days in the 1960s and 1970s.
According to the lawsuit Belt previously filed notice of an administrative claim with the U.S. government in 2015; Joyce Luken filed a claim on behalf of her deceased father in March 2012; and Beverly McClain filed two administrative claims, one for herself and one for her late husband, in June 2014. Each of those claims were denied under the federal tort claims act, and the plaintiffs new seek compensation under the new Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
Belt, Luken, McClain and other plaintiffs joined together last month to file a joint motion to consolidate the Camp Lejeune lawsuits before one judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
In a series of orders (PDF) issued on September 29, U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III denied the motion to consolidate the litigation, and independently raised questions about whether the lawsuit filed by Belt and other plaintiffs were premature under the requirements of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
“In the motion to consolidate, the United States argues that plaintiffs have not complied with the administrative exhaustion requirement in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. The argument appears to have force given the timing of plaintiffs’ lawsuits,” Judge Dever wrote in the Order.
Plaintiffs have been directed to produce evidence by October 21, 2022, demonstrating that they complied with the Camp Lejeune Justice Act requirement, including the date each claim was submitted and the date the U.S. government denied the claim under the Act, together with any brief explaining how an administrative claim brought before the Camp Lejeune Justice Act became law complies with the new requirements.
Any response by the U.S. government must be filed by November 10, and the plaintiffs can file a final reply by November 17, 2022. Judge Dever indicates the Court will then decide whether to dismiss the early Camp Lejeune lawsuits without prejudice to refile after exhausting administrative remedies required by the new law.
Camp Lejeune Justice Act Filing Requirements
The requirements stipulate that before filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government, notice of the Camp Lejeune water contamination claim must be provided to the appropriate federal agency 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. The agency indicates even claims previously denied under the Federal Tort Claims Act over water contamination at Camp Lejeune, must still be refiled for consideration under the new law.
Each claimant must file a Camp Lejeune Justice Act Claim form (PDF), providing specific information about their claim, 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.
Latest Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Updates
Learn more about claims available under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, and settlements that may be available for individuals exposed to toxic water between 1953 and 1987.
JamesOctober 28, 2022 at 12:10 pm
I worked and lived there for several years as a Marine and I developed and was treated for 2 years for liphnode cancer now I have liver function issues that I suffer with. My biggest concern is that the only people to get relief are the attorneys, I hope the JAG and the Federal Judge rule that the attorneys can only get 20% compensation not the standard 40%! If what I am reading about the funds se[Show More]I worked and lived there for several years as a Marine and I developed and was treated for 2 years for liphnode cancer now I have liver function issues that I suffer with. My biggest concern is that the only people to get relief are the attorneys, I hope the JAG and the Federal Judge rule that the attorneys can only get 20% compensation not the standard 40%! If what I am reading about the funds set aside for us is 21 Billion and if my math is right that there are approximately one million people affected then that would equal out to 21 million for each victim but with all the corruption we will get the shaft as usual for Military men and women and their families and the lawyers and politicians will get rich!
ANDREWOctober 17, 2022 at 12:53 pm
I don't trust federal judges. I was born at Camp LeJeune, had a whole host of health problems and disabilities, listed in the VA reg for the Janey Ensminger Act of 2012. My mother DIED of a cancer listed in the VA regs for Camp LeJeune. We were EXPOSED to the base for 19 months as my father trained there for his Vietnam duties. But because we slept off base, I was denied the health car[Show More]I don't trust federal judges. I was born at Camp LeJeune, had a whole host of health problems and disabilities, listed in the VA reg for the Janey Ensminger Act of 2012. My mother DIED of a cancer listed in the VA regs for Camp LeJeune. We were EXPOSED to the base for 19 months as my father trained there for his Vietnam duties. But because we slept off base, I was denied the health care. I litigated this for 7 years and no federal judge would give me relief. WATCH how Federal Circuit judges twist and turn to make sure I cannot have the health care for a condition on the list caused by Camp LeJeune, WHERE I WAS BORN. I was born on an EPA Superfund site toxic waste pile, and this refusal is absolutely nonsense and unpatriotic. https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/cafc/20-2090/20-2090-2021-01-15.html
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