When Americans sign up to join the Armed Forces, they volunteer to put their own safety at risk to protect our freedoms. Usually, we consider the biggest risks to our soldiers’ safety to be from enemy combatants – but in some cases, our soldiers’ health and safety have been compromised by our own military.
Between 1953 and 1987, thousands of American Marines and their families were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The water at Camp Lejeune caused these veterans to later develop cancer and other dangerous health conditions.
Today, recent changes in federal law have allowed affected Marine Corps veterans to file lawsuits against the government to recover compensation for their injuries. Our team of nationwide personal injury attorneys at Bailey Glasser is ready to assist these veterans and their families.
Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is a military training facility located in eastern North Carolina on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. At 246 square miles and 156,000 acres, Camp Lejeune is one of the largest military facilities in the United States, and it contains a full-scale living community for Marines and their families.
The base opened in 1942, and it has continually operated since then. During the 1950s, a dry cleaning business located in a community adjacent to Camp Lejeune disposed of toxic waste in an improper manner and contaminated the area’s groundwater. During that time, Camp Lejeune’s drinking water was mostly provided by wells connected to the base’s water treatment plants.
Discovery of the Toxic Water on Base
The toxic waste from the dry cleaning business directly affected the drinking water at two of the base’s eight water treatment facilities, causing 25 percent of all drinking water on the base to be severely contaminated. Even though the contamination occurred in the 1950s, it was not discovered until 1982, and the contaminated water wells were not completely shut down until three years later in 1985.
Residual amounts of the toxins were still in the water on base until 1987, and so any veteran who served at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water.
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at Camp Lejeune
More specifically, the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was discovered to contain volatile organic compounds, more commonly known as VOCs. The VOCs found in the largest quantities were perchloroethylene (PCE), a dry cleaning solvent, and trichloroethylene (TCE), a degreaser also used by dry cleaners. In addition to these VOCs, the Camp Lejeune water was contaminated with more than 70 different chemicals in varying amounts.
All in all, the toxins contained within Camp Lejeune’s drinking water were present in concentrations from 240 to 3400 times the levels permitted by Federal safety regulations and standards. Every Marine and family member that lived and worked on Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 may have drank, used, and bathed in this contaminated water.
Conditions Caused by Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water
The VOCs and other chemicals found in the Camp Lejeune water have caused multitudes of negative health effects for veterans who were exposed to these chemicals. Many VOCs are proven to be carcinogenic, meaning that they cause cancer in humans. The specific chemicals found in the Camp Lejeune drinking water have been proven to cause cancer and other devastating illnesses.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has identified 15 specific conditions that affected Camp Lejeune veterans and family members have been diagnosed with in connection to contaminated water exposure. Those conditions are:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral and mental health issues
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
But in addition to those conditions identified by the VA, the Centers for Disease Control have identified many other conditions that could be linked to exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Those conditions include lots of other types of cancer, birth defects, and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, in addition to other problems. For that reason, any veteran or family member who lived or served on Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 who has later been diagnosed with any chronic disease or condition should reach out to an attorney to discuss options for compensation.
Compensation for Camp Lejeune Water Victims
The law provides that when a person is injured due to another person’s negligence or wrongdoing, the injured party can and should recover compensation for their injuries. In Camp Lejeune cases, evidence has been discovered that the Marines knew or should have known that the water on the base was contaminated and continued to allow people to ingest it. Some evidence suggests that the government became aware of toxic substances in the Camp Lejeune water wells as early as 1940 – a decade before the dry cleaning chemical incident in the 1950s.
But unfortunately, Camp Lejeune victims have not been able to access compensation in the same way as other personal injury victims. That’s because generally, the law does not allow individuals to sue the federal government or any of its agencies – including the Armed Forces. For that reason, Camp Lejeune victims and their families had difficulty accessing compensation for their injuries until a recent change in the law provided them with new opportunities.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022
In late 2022, Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which allows affected veterans and their families to file lawsuits against the federal government to recover compensation related to contaminated water injuries. More specifically, the new law creates a private cause of action for affected victims to access justice and compensation for their injuries. The law also bypasses legal hurdles that previously prevented victims from filing lawsuits against the government.
Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Lawsuits
Filing a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is not the same as filing any ordinary personal injury lawsuit. For that reason, you and your family should consult with an experienced team of attorneys who know how to handle Camp Lejeune water lawsuits.
Who Can File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
Anyone who lived or worked on base at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and who has now been diagnosed with a severe illness linked to toxic chemical exposure may be eligible to file a lawsuit. That includes Marine Corps veterans, their families, unborn children, civilian military employees, and any other person who spent any amount of time on Camp Lejeune during the relevant 34-year period.
How Does a Victim File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?
The new law requires that victims file lawsuits in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, where Camp Lejeune is located, no matter where a victim is located in the country. However, victims who are not located near North Carolina should not be discouraged from pursuing compensation if they are able to do so.
Due to the large number of lawsuits being filed under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, it seems highly likely that the Camp Lejeune lawsuits will be consolidated into a multi-district litigation proceeding, commonly known in the federal courts as an MDL. In an MDL action, similar cases that are filed are consolidated into one “parent case” in a single court to allow for more efficient processing. The “parent case” is made up of a countless number of “member cases,” comprising each individual lawsuit filed across the country.
When multiple cases are all against a single defendant and are based on the same theory of liability, MDLs allow for the cases to proceed much faster than if they all had to be litigated individually. While the individual details of each case are usually litigated individually, to the extent that certain motions can be decided as they are applicable to all cases, MDLs allow for that to happen.
Our team of attorneys at Bailey Glasser includes multiple attorneys who are licensed to practice in North Carolina, and our Camp Lejeune team handles cases from victims who are located in all parts of the United States.
If you have a viable claim for compensation, our team can assist you in determining the best way for your case to proceed. Contacting us to set up a free consultation is the first step in seeking compensation for your injuries.
How Much is a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Worth?
As part of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the federal government has allotted $22 billion to pay out settlements and jury verdicts to Camp Lejeune victims and their families. The specific amounts of compensation available to each victim will vary depending on the severity of the victim’s illnesses, with the highest payouts likely going to cancer patients.
It is expected that many Camp Lejeune lawsuits will be resolved via settlement with the government, but some cases may go to trial.
If we are able to take your case, our team of attorneys will pursue as much compensation as you may be entitled to receive. We can assist you in determining what options may be available to you and your family, and after you decide how to proceed, we will pursue justice to the fullest extent possible on your behalf.
Contact Bailey Glasser Today
Bailey Glasser’s nationwide team of personal injury attorneys is dedicated to advocating for victims from various backgrounds – including veterans affected by the Camp Lejeune water contamination, patients impacted by Hologic Biozorb complications, those experiencing issues from Medtronic Heartware devices, and individuals suffering due to RoundUp exposure. We comprehend the complexities of these cases, often involving severe illnesses and conditions. With the ever-evolving federal laws influencing Camp Lejeune, Hologic Biozorb, Medtronic Heartware, and RoundUp lawsuits, it’s crucial that your case is handled by our experienced and well-informed legal team.
Contact us today to set up a free, no-risk consultation with a member of our team to see if you and your family have a claim for compensation.