Lawmakers Seek to Speed Up Camp Lejeune Water Lawsuits, By Expanding Jurisdiction To Address Backlog of Cases

New Bill would allow Camp Lejeune water lawsuits to be set for trial in various different courts throughout the Fourth Circuit, and ensure that juries determine the amount of damages each plaintiff receives.

Hoping to expedite the resolution of a growing number of Camp Lejeune water lawsuits, a pair of North Carolina lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow trials to be held in a number of different jurisdictions, while also allowing juries to determine the amount of damages the U.S. government should pay to compensate veterans and their family members.

The U.S. government faces about 230,000 claims submitted by individuals diagnosed with 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. However, with two more months remaining for lawsuits to be filed, it is expected that there will be a surge of lawsuits over the Camp Lejeune contaminated water in the coming weeks.

President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022 into law on August 10, 2022, opening a two window for claims to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which was granted exclusive jurisdiction for the litigation.

Four U.S. District Judges are presiding over the litigation, which now involves claims that the Camp Lejeune water caused dozens of different types of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, fertility problems and other various other injuries. However, some lawmakers indicate that the current backlog of claims is delaying the ability of claims to get to trial, despite provisions in the law that sought to ensure veterans, family members and others injured by the toxic water were promptly compensated.

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

Late last month, U.S. House of Representatives members Deborah Ross and Greg Murphy, both from North Carolina, introduced the Camp Lejeune Justice Corrections Act (PDF), noting that despite the massive number of claims, the U.S. government has only made 63 settlement offers, of which only 32 have been accepted.

The U.S. Department of Navy and Department of Justice have announced 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. However, many claimants will not qualify for this settlement offer or intend to pursue additional compensation through the U.S. court system.

While the original Act required each of the claims to go to trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which could take decades for each claim to resolve, the new legislation would allow cases to be transferred to any court in the Fourth Circuit, greatly expanding the number of venues and judges that could preside over claims if there are no global Camp Lejeune water settlements reached to fairly compensate broader categories of injuries.

The bill introduced by Reps. Ross and Murphy also clarify that each of the plaintiffs would have a right to have their case decided by a jury of their peers, seeking to address a recent decision by the four North Carolina judges in February, which declared that plaintiffs do not have a right to Camp Lejeune jury trials, indicating that payouts would be determined only by the judges themselves.

Plaintiffs had called for the judges to reconsider that decision, but their request was denied last month.

“Our brave veterans put their lives on the line to defend our country and should never face barriers to accessing the justice they deserve after exposure to toxic water during their time stationed at Camp Lejeune,” Ross said in a press release issued on May 23. “The legislation we are introducing today will make needed reforms to ensure that veterans nationwide do not face financial or logistical barriers to pursuing the long-overdue remedies they are owed.”

In addition to expanding the jurisdiction where Camp Lejeune trials may be held and restoring jury rights, the legislation also places a cap on the amount of attorney fees that can be charged against any recovery, indicating that contingency fees can not exceed 20% of any settlement, or 25% of any judgment if the claim goes to trial.

Camp Lejeune Water Lawsuit Bellwether Trials Pending

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 four judges currently presiding over the litigation have established several “bellwether” groups that are being prepared for early trial dates.

The first Camp Lejeune water lawsuit track includes 100 claims that may be ready for trial by the end of 2024, involving plaintiffs who suffered any of the following injuries:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

In February 2024, the Court established a list of Track 2 Camp Lejeune water lawsuits that will be prepared for additional early trials, including for individuals diagnosed with:

  • Prostate Cancer
  • Kidney Disease
  • Lung Cancer
  • Liver Cancer
  • Breast Cancer

Most recently, the a third track of Camp Lejeune water injuries were identified, including claims for:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Dental effects
  • Hypersensitivity skin disorder
  • Medical monitoring unrelated to a specific disease

Although the first trials may begin in 2024, it will likely take several years before cases from each of the tracks reach a verdict. In addition, those awards will not have any binding impact on the hundreds of thousands of other claims. Therefore, unless the amounts of those bellwether judgments drive additional settlement categories, the judges in the Eastern District of North Carolina could be presiding over Camp Lejeune water contamination trials for decades.

3 Comments

  • RalphJune 9, 2024 at 6:29 pm

    Ridiculous to have to wait. How many have died since filling? Can't settlements and trials happen in less time than "decades?"

  • LarryJune 8, 2024 at 8:20 am

    Treat Marines like this and watch your Recruiting and Retention plummet from families and friends disgust in the way Marines are left to die before settlements are reached! If we were illegal aliens we would have money lodging new cellphones etc etc. SEMPER FI MARINES CALL YOUR SENATORS

  • LyleJune 7, 2024 at 10:39 pm

    Who ever came up with the 35 year rule probably never been in the military or any of there families members would realize that most of us didn't find out about are disease until we became ill or until our death bed. Look at the numbers of the claims for the past two years. Majority of the people have died so shame on the people's that are playing with our time that we have left on this earth.

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