U.S. Argues Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Must Establish Contaminated Water Caused Injuries of Each Specific Plaintiff

The government claims that not requiring plaintiffs to prove specific causation could lead to compensation for injuries not resulting from Camp Lejeune water contamination.

Government attorneys now indicate that military service members and family members, who were poisoned by contaminated water at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps. training base in North Carolina, should be required to establish specific causation for their injuries, despite a common belief and acceptance that a law passed by Congress was intended to provide speedy and fair compensation for individuals stationed at the base for at least 30 days.

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 broadly accepted interpretation of the legislation is that it 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 their claimed injury and Camp Lejeune water is “at least as likely as not.” However, now the U.S. government is urging the courts to require each individual plaintiff to establish that exposure to chemicals in the contaminated water caused their injury.

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

Suffer From Health Issues Due To The Water At Camp Lejeune?

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.

Learn More About this Lawsuit See If You Qualify For Compensation

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 will not qualify for this settlement offer or intend to pursue additional compensation through the U.S. court system.

The legislation requires that all Camp Lejeune lawsuits be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, where four separate judges are working together to coordinate and manage the proceedings, including Judges Richard E. Myers II, Terrence W. Boyle, Louise W. Flanagan and James C. Dever III.

U.S. Calls for Camp Lejeune Plaintiffs to Prove Causation

In January, plaintiffs filed a motion for pretrial summary judgment (PDF) on the issue of specific causation, noting that the 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.

However, attorneys for the United States government filed a response (PDF) on February 19, arguing that each individual plaintiff should also be required to establish specific causation for their injuries. The filing seems to contradict previous statements made by law makers, which indicated that the new law would only require claimants to show they were exposed on the base during the time period of contamination, and the government would assume those injuries were caused by that contamination, given the time passed and the difficulty in proving exposure to specific contaminants.

“Notwithstanding the CLJA’s text, or its history and context, Plaintiffs’ Leadership Group (PLG) seeks to discard the bedrock requirement that plaintiffs in toxic tort litigation must show specific causation—that is, that the contaminated water actually caused their injuries as opposed to something else. Specific causation ensures that compensation goes to individuals whose harms were caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune, as Congress said,” the government’s response states. “PLG’s interpretation not only disregards established tort law relating to causation—it also contradicts the CLJA’s plain language limiting relief to harms ‘caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune’ and requiring an individual to show ‘a causal relationship’ between “exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune and the harm.”

The government’s attorneys argue that the plaintiffs’ interpretation would allow plaintiffs to potentially recover damages for injuries that were not caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination.

However, 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.

Plaintiffs Appeal Ruling Against Camp Lejeune Jury Trials

After plaintiffs submitted a master complaint that included a request for Camp Lejeune lawsuit jury trials, the U.S. government filed a motion in November 2023, indicating that individual jury trials should not be held to determine the value of each claim.

The government argued that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act does not specifically provide plaintiffs with a right to a jury trial, and that the claims should be decided by a judge during a bench trial.

On February 6, the judges issued an order agreeing with the U.S. government, and determined that plaintiffs will not be entitled to jury trials.

Last week, Plaintiffs filed a motion (PDF) asking the judges for the right to immediately appeal that decision, saying that removing the right to a jury trial raises enough significant questions about how the litigation should progress to qualify, and that an opinion should be obtained from a higher court.

“(T)o the PLG’s knowledge, the Order is the first decision ever to hold that a statute that creates a cause of action specifically against the government and that refers to the right to a jury trial is not sufficiently clear to authorize jury trials,” plaintiffs argue. “This case therefore presents a far closer question than any other decision in which a statute has been construed not to permit jury trials against the government.”

March 2024 Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Update

While the court sorts out pretrial issues that will clear the way for the first trials to begin, the U.S. government and Camp Lejeune injury lawyers are actively preparing a small group of representative cases for early bellwether trials, which are expected to be ready to begin in 2024.

The parties have selected 100 cases overall to form the initial bellwether pool, spread evenly across claims involving the following categories of injuries:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • 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 in those negotiations, by demonstrating how judges are likely to respond in future cases to various types of injuries.

4 Comments

  • JoeyFebruary 24, 2024 at 8:53 pm

    I drink that fucking poison for 10yrs as a child and almost 2 yrs as a United states marine and this is bullshit the United states needs to pay for poisoning all of us, they have no problem sending our money overseas but have a problem taking care of Americans I hope they all burn in hell

  • RobertFebruary 24, 2024 at 6:05 pm

    I personally worked at camp lejejune as paper seller, comucery as a grocery bagger and and at helicopter hanges when they were built during the Vietnam war. Do i qualify.,

  • LaurenceFebruary 24, 2024 at 4:01 pm

    I filed my claim in 2015 stating the water at Lejuene was contaminated and was told to prove it. Denied. Appealed. Denied,

  • LarryFebruary 24, 2024 at 2:37 pm

    We've all been waiting for the screw job to get here. It was all a publicity stunt. Another fine kiss off for we who sereved.

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