Judges Reject Request to Appeal Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Jury Trial Rights Early in Litigation

Plaintiffs will have to wait until after Camp Lejeune lawsuit bench trials are completed before appealing a ruling that prevents juries from deciding the claims.

A group of four U.S. District Judges presiding over all Camp Lejeune lawsuits have rejected a bid by plaintiffs to immediately appeal a recent ruling that prevents juries from being utilized to determine the amount of damages that should be awarded for injuries caused by water contamination on the U.S. Marine training base, indicating that the decision can only be challenged after a final judgment is returned in bench trials expected to begin later this year.

The U.S. government faces about 230,000 claims submitted by military veterans, their families, and others who developed various types of cancer and other ailments following exposure to toxic chemicals in the water at the North Carolina Marine training base between the mid-1950s and late 1980s.

Each of the claims are being pursued under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022, which President Joe Biden signed into law in August 2022, opening a two-year window for lawsuits to be brought by anyone injured by contaminated water at the base, after the Navy previously denied claims for decades due to the North Carolina statute of limitations, which had already expired by the time the problems were discovered.

The litigation includes claims for dozens of different injuries that were allegedly 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.

Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Jury Decision Appeal

In November 2023, the U.S. government filed a motion with the court requesting that all jury trial demands be striken in Camp Lejeune lawsuits, indicating that the value of each claim should be determined by judges, not juries.

The four judges presiding over the litigation granted the request in February 2024, indicating that plaintiffs do not have a right to Camp Lejeune jury trials.

Shortly after, plaintiffs filed a motion (PDF) requesting they be allowed to file an immediate appeal of the decision, known as an interlocutory appeal. Plaintiffs argued that the decision was a “controlling question of law” for which there was substantial grounds for differences of opinion. In addition, the ruling is expected to impact a large number of cases before plaintiffs will have any opportunity to appeal the decision through the normal process, which requires a final judgement before pursuing appellate review.

In an order (PDF) issued on Monday, the judges denied the motion to certify the appeal, indicated that the ruling does not equate to a “controlling question of law” because it does not threaten to end the litigation. The judges noted that the litigation is not in any danger of being thrown out due to the ruling.

They also determined that the ruling did not constitute a substantial ground for difference of opinion.

“A substantial ground for difference of opinion does not occur when a party merely believes that the district court wrongly decided the issue or incorrectly applied the governing legal standard,” the four judges wrote.

The decision means that plaintiffs will have to wait until a final judgment is returned during a Camp Lejeune bench trial before appealing the decision not to hold jury trials.

May 2024 Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Updates

According to a status report (PDF) issued on May 9, the U.S. Government and U.S. Navy face 1,764 Camp Lejeune lawsuits already filed before the four judges in the Eastern District of North Carolina, with another 227,309 administrative claims presented by individuals who personal injuries caused by water contamination on the base, which is a required step before an actual lawsuit can be filed.

To help gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of claims involving different injuries, as well as the potential average Camp Lejeune lawsuit payout awards plaintiffs may expect to receive if they prevail, the parties are currently working to prepare a group of 100 cases for an 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

The first bench trials for these bellwether cases may begin by the end of 2024. While the outcome will not have a binding impact on other claims, the amount of any judgement awarded may help the parties negotiate additional settlements, by demonstrating how judges are likely to respond in future cases. However, if plaintiffs success appealing over their Camp Lejeune lawsuit jury trial rights, the entire bellwether process may need to be restarted, further delaying resolution of the claims.

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