Eligible for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Families Say Camp Lejeune Settlement Fails to Address Countless Miscarriages, Birth Defects Caused By Water Contamination
Following a recent announcement by the U.S. government for an “Elective Option” to settle Camp Lejeune lawsuits, which seeks to resolve claims involving various injuries linked to chemicals that contaminated the water supply on the Marine base for decades, many families are questioning why the settlement fails to provide financial compensation for repeated miscarriages that many women exposed to the water have faced.
Nearly 100,000 claims have already been presented under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CJLA) 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 base between the mid-1950s and late-1980s. However, the size and scope of the litigation is expected to continue to increase over the coming year, and it is widely expected that the litigation will become the largest mass tort in U.S. history by the time the filing window closes in August 2024.
The sprawling litigation involves dozens of different injuries allegedly caused by chemicals known to have contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, including various types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, fertility problems and other injuries, each of which plaintiffs must establish was at least as likely as not to have been caused by exposure to water on the base.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice and U.S. Navy announced an elective Camp Lejeune settlement option, offering up to $550,000 to 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 has having a high level of evidence establishing a causal link. However, although there is evidence linking cardiac birth defects and miscarriages to Camp Lejeune water, those injuries are not included in the elective option.
Camp Lejeune Miscarriage Victims Feel Left Out
According to a recent NBC News report, women who lived on the base during the years where the water was contaminated have expressed frustration that pregnancy complications were excluded from the settlement. Now, as many Camp Lejeune lawsuit plaintiffs consider whether to accept the settlement offer put forward, these mothers say they feel left out of the process, and their own struggles have been ignored.
Over the years, so many Camp Lejeune babies died or were born stillborn at Camp Lejeune that the base became known for the number of infant graves in a cemetery, which is commonly referred to as “Baby Heaven.”
In updated guidance (PDF) issued by the DOJ and Navy on September 7, the government specifically addressed the cardiac birth defect claims, indicating that this category of injury includes “a wide range of illnesses that are difficult to evaluate similary without fact-intensive investigation.”
The guidance also points out that the Department of Veteran Affairs treats a number of other illnesses linked to Camp Lejeune water as “presumptively service-related”, but they are also not included in the elective settlement option at this time. However, the government has indicate that there may additional Camp Lejeune settlement structures proposed in the future to resolve other claims.
September 2023 Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Update
The Camp Lejeune Elective Option would provide settlements ranging from about $100,000 to $550,000, for individuals who suffered any of the following ailments:
- Kidney Cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Bladder cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Liver cancer
- Parkinson’s disease
- Kidney Disease
- Systemic sclerosis/scleroderma
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, and the Elective Option was proposed just days after parties in the litigation submitted competing Camp Lejeune trial and discovery plans to begin preparing the first bellwether test cases for trial.
While the outcome of the early Camp Lejeune bellwether trials would 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.
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