Judge Dismisses Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Filed Before Exhausting Administrative Settlement Options Under New Law
- Camp Lejeune settlements may now be available for injuries caused by contaminated water at the Marine base between 1950s and 1980s
- New law requires notice of potential claims and a six month window for U.S. government to exhaust administrative settlement options
- Court denied a handful of Camp Lejeune lawsuits filed only days after the new law was signed by President Biden, requiring claims to go through the administrative process first
- Thousands of Marines and family members exposed to toxic water have filed administrative notice of their claims and made demands for Camp Lejeune settlement benefits
- LEARN MORE ABOUT THE STEPS IN PURSUING A CAMP LEJEUNE WATER SETTLEMENT
A federal judge has dismissed several Camp Lejeune lawsuits filed only days after President Biden signed new legislation that allowed claims to be pursued for injuries caused by contaminated water at the U.S. marine base, indicating the plaintiffs failed to exhaust the administrative settlement options under the law.
Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, which was plagued with water contamination problems between the 1950s and 1980s, exposing 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 Camp Lejeune water contamination problems were known to veterans and family members living on the base, 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.
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 prior to this new law being enacted, attempted to immediately reinitiated their lawsuits, arguing that the notice requirements of the Act were satisfied when they originally presented their claims years ago.
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.
Both plaintiffs and the government filed briefs supporting their stances. Plaintiffs argued 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.
However, the government argued that the new law requires that administrative Camp Lejeune settlement options be exhausted before any lawsuit is filed in the new Act, to provide the U.S. government with the opportunity to properly evaluate and attempt to negotiate a resolution for the new cause of action created by the legislature.
Judge Rules Plaintiffs Must Refile Camp Lejeune Claims Under New Law
On December 20, Judge Denver issued a court order (PDF) dismissing a number of those early claims, indicating that plaintiffs must first exhaust administrative remedies provided by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act before filing a lawsuit against the government.
“One of the core purposes of administrative exhaustion is to facilitate administrative settlement. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act created a new federal cause of action and a new administrative exhaustion requirement for such claims and opened the United States to new liability,” Judge Denver wrote. “Congress’s creation of a new cause of action under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act created a need for the Navy to review administratively these new claims…in order to expedite fair settlements in accordance with the purposes of administrative exhaustion.”
The decision means the plaintiffs will have to refile their claims under the new act, once the U.S. government denies their claim or if a Camp Lejeune settlement is not reached within six months after proper notice of the claim is provided.
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.
Do You Qualify for a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Settlement?
Lawyers provide free consultations and claim evaluations to help determine if injuries may be caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, and whether settlement benefits may be available. There are no fees or expenses unless a recovery is obtained.
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