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Camp Lejeune Trial and Discovery Plans Submitted By Plaintiffs and U.S. Government, In Competing Proposals
Lawyers involved in Camp Lejeune lawsuits being pursued against the U.S. government over water contamination at the Marine Corps base have submitted competing trial and discovery plans, which could result in the first cases going before a jury sometime next year.
Tens of thousands of claims have 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 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
Each of the claims has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, as required by the new law, where claims were previously pending before four separate federal judges, including Judges Richard E. Myers II, Terrence W. Boyle, Louise W. Flanagan and James C. Dever III.
Given common questions of fact and law involving different categories of injuries, the judges established a Master Docket for Camp Lejeune lawsuits in May, and appointed a group of plaintiffs lawyers to leadership positions, which are taking certain actions during discovery and pretrial proceedings that benefit all claimants, as well as coordinating with the U.S. government to establish a proposed plan to manage the growing litigation.
Competing Camp Lejeune Trial and Discovery Proposals
This week, the parties submitted a joint status report (PDF), which contained competing Camp Lejeune trial and discovery plans, including statements in support of their respective proposals.
While the plaintiffs lawyers and U.S. government have reached agreement on a number of issues in planning out how the litigation should proceed, they indicate that there are disagreements about the scope of individual claims that should be selected for early bellwether trials, as well as the timeline for discovery and cases starting to go before juries.
The plaintiffs’ proposal calls for trial preparation to begin promptly, by selecting a discovery pool comprised of bladder cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, Parkinson’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma injury claims, indicating that 10 cases should be selected for inclusion in the pool, which would allow the first Camp Lejeune trial to begin in the first quarter of 2024.
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.
The U.S. government’s counterproposal is much more limited, calling for only three types of injuries to be included in the initial discovery pool, including of kidney cancer, leukemia or Parkinson’s disease injury claims. However, their plan calls for five cases to be selected by each party, with another 10 cases selected randomly by the Court, with fact discovery taking 120 days. Although the plaintiffs suggest this will delay the start of the first trial, the government maintains that its proposed timeline could still have the first Camp Lejeune lawsuit going before a jury sometime in 2024.
Camp Lejeune Settlement Delays
The U.S. government has already faced sharp criticism from lawyers, judges and law makers for failing to reach any Camp Lejeune settlements, more than one year after the law went into effect, with bipartisan support.
In June 2023, ten members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and Secretary of the Navy, demanding a Camp Lejeune settlement update. The lawmakers expressed serious concerns that claims were not being processed efficiently and timely for U.S. service members and their families, who were injured by the government’s negligence.
Individuals injured by water at Camp Lejeune have already been waiting decades for financial compensation, since the North Carolina statute of limitations and qualified immunity laws previously prevented claims from being pursued, until the new law was passed.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 also requires that notice of each claim must be provided to the U.S. Department of Navy at least 180 days before a lawsuit can be filed in Court, which was supposed to give the government time to negotiate and pay settlements. However, reports suggest that there have been no claims resolved, and the litigation is quickly ballooning in size and scope.
September 2023 Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Update
Estimates suggest more than a million Marines and their family members were exposed to contaminated Camp Lejeune water between the early 1950s and late 1980s, with some reports suggesting that toxic chemicals from Camp Lejeune may be responsible for more than 50,000 cases of breast cancer, 28,000 cases of bladder cancer, and 24,000 cases of renal cancer, as well as thousands of cases involve Parkinson’s disease and other health complications. It is also believed Camp Lejeune water caused birth defects and wrongful death for thousands of unborn children exposed in utero.
While the U.S. government passed this landmark legislation, the law does not include any automatic right to settlement benefits for veterans and their family members. Rather, each claimant must file a lawsuit and establish that they were exposed to Camp Lejeune water for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 31, 1987. It is also necessary that they present expert testimony or support to establish that there is a causal relationship between the Camp Lejeune water and injury, or that such a relationship is at least as likely as not.
At this time, Camp Lejeune lawyers are reviewing claims for a wide variety of cancers and other complications that may have been caused by the chemicals in the water, including:
Camp Lejeune Cancer Lawsuits:
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Brain Cancer
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Central Nervous System Cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colon Cancer/Colorectal Cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Prostate Cancer
- Rectal Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
Other Side Effects Eligible for Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Benefits:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal Toxicity/Kidney Disease
- Kidney Damage
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
- Aplastic anemia
- Birth defects
- Female Infertility
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Epilepsy (seizures)
- Immune Disorders
- Nerve Damage
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS or Pre-Leukemia)
- Neurobehavioral effects (tremors, lack of coordination, movement or motor problems or other symptoms consistent with undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease)
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