Camp Lejeune is a United States military base located in southeastern North Carolina. The base was established in 1942 and is still operating today. It has served as the home for thousands of military personnel and their families throughout the course of its operation. Many civilians and contractors have also worked on or near the base. In 1982, the Marine Corps found that the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The contaminated water came from at least two of the eight water treatment plants that supply water to the camp's residents and businesses.
VOCs are linked to risk factors for various diseases and cancers in those exposed to VOC-contaminated water. The Camp Lejeune lawsuit seeks to help veterans and their families who are suffering from medical conditions that might be associated with the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. if you worked at Camp Lejeune or you and your family were stationed at the base between 1953 and 1987, you may be eligible to join the Camp Lejeune lawsuit.
Is there a Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
Yes. In 2009, the wife of a former Marine filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government for her exposure to contaminated water while she and her husband lived on the Camp Lejeune base from 1980 to 1983. She claims her exposure during this time is related to her developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is just one of the many health conditions linked to drinking VOC-contaminated water. Others soon joined her in filing suit for medical conditions they believe they got because of the water contamination, and a multidistrict litigation (MDL) case was established.
Unfortunately, due to a North Carolina law that does notÂ allow legal action to be pursued if the water contamination happened more than 10 years before a plaintiff files suit, the 850 cases that were consolidated into the first Camp Lejeune MDL were dismissed. But because the government failed to notify those living on the base during the time the water supply was contaminated until 17 years after they discovered the issue, it would be impossible for those who lived at Camp Lejeune to have filed suit within the state law's time frame.
An act that passed in 2012 provided coverage for medical care costs for veterans who suffered from presumptive medical conditions linked to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The act also provided disability benefits, but the limiting factor for this legislation was that it did not include compensation for the family members who lived with military personnel on the base or nonmilitary personnel who conducted business there. This resulted in a further push for more to be done.
In 2022, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed into law. The act is meant to allow victims of the Camp Lejeune contaminated water to file suit against the U.S. government if Navy JAG fails to act on a claim within six months of its filing. Since the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed, many veterans and their families have filed suit because Navy JAG has not met the six-month deadline for taking care of claims. The number of people joining the suit grows daily as these claims continue to go unresolved.
This ongoing litigation has been an important issue for those who lived and worked on the base, and more than 45,000 people have filed lawsuits since the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed. This number could swell in the coming months. It is estimated that 1 million people may have been exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Some of the cases that were originally filed as personal injury suits have become wrongful death cases because the plaintiffs have died before their claims were addressed.
Water contamination at Camp Lejeune
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune is known to have come from two of the eight water treatment plants that supplied the community with water during the 1950s through the 1980s. The Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water treatment facilities were found to be contaminated with VOCs that exceeded the limits set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When the Holcomb Boulevard water treatment plant was unable to supply sufficient water, the Hadnot Point facility supplied water to housing outside Camp Lejeune. Those living in areas supplied by the Holcomb Boulevard facility may have also had exposure intermittently.
Areas supplied by the Tarawa Terrace facility include:
- Tarawa Terrace family housing.
- Knox trailer park.
Areas supplied by the Hadnot Point facility include:
- Mainside barracks.
- Hospital Point family housing.
- Midway Park family housing.
- Paradise Point family housing.
- Berkley Manor family housing.
Sources of contamination at each facility include underground storage container leakage, waste disposal sites, and local businesses, including a dry cleaning company that was known to have leaked toxic dry cleaning chemicals into the water supply as early as 1953.
Toxic chemicals in water
Although the Marine Corps didn't discover VOCs in the water at Camp Lejeune until 1982, their testing indicates that the water contamination went as far back as August 1953. When the results of the 1982 water test came back, they determined that the drinking water being supplied to the base was dangerously contaminated with:
- TCE (trichloroethylene): This is an industrial chemical used in dry cleaning agents, degreasing metal, and paint production.
- PCE (perchloroethylene or tetrachloroethylene): This is a degreaser that has been linked to kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and cardiac problems.
- DCE (trans-1,2-dichloroethylene): This chemical is a degreaser and solvent related to liver and kidney issues.
- Vinyl chloride: This chloride-producing gas is used in making PVC pipes, wire coatings, and other plastic products and has ties to liver cancer.
- Benzene: An industrial chemical used in organic compounds, benzene is linked to leukemias, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.
At least one of these VOCs exceeded the EPA limit in 1953 at water wells for both of the water treatment facilities in question. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to several types of cancer and other serious and life-threatening health conditions. Military personnel and their family members who lived on base at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 nonconsecutive days between August 1953 and December 1987 may be able to join the Camp Lejeune lawsuit if they are suffering from one of the conditions defined in the case as presumptive.
The eight presumptive diseases individuals may have from the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune are:
- Adult leukemia.
- Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
- Parkinson's disease.
- Bladder cancer.
- Liver cancer.
- Kidney cancer.
- Multiple myeloma.
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes.
An act passed in 2012 allows veterans and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between Aug. 1, 1953, and Dec. 31, 1987, to get free medical treatment for these conditions in addition to those listed above:
- Esophageal cancer.
- Breast cancer.
- Renal toxicity.
- Female infertility.
- Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis).
- Lung cancer.
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease).
- Neurobehavioral effects.
To receive free medical care for these diseases, veterans could not have been dishonorably discharged from service. It is important to note that receiving free care under the Camp Lejeune Act of 2012 could affect your settlement amount. Speak to an attorney to find out more about getting the care and compensation youÂ need.
The Navy did not act
One of the most concerning things about the water contamination at Camp Lejeune is the military's failure to act. Evidence shows water testing took place in 1980, but officials claimed something interfered with the results. Records also show, however, that scientists running the water tests warned that the interference was likely coming from contaminants in the water.
In fact, William Neal Jr., the chief of laboratory services for the Army lab at the time, wrote that the water was highly contaminated by an organic chemical as early as October 1980. The more he tested the water, the stronger his insistence was that the water was not safe. Finally, in 1982, water test results showed that contaminated water was being distributed to thousands of military personnel and their families living on the base. Even though the military knew the water was contaminated with dangerous levels of TCE and PCE without question by 1982, it did nothing until 1984.
As news of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune began to spread, the military started shutting down contaminated wells at the two major water treatment plants. But at the same time, Camp Lejeune's commanding general was assuring the base's residents that the contamination was minute, leading them to believe there was nothing to worry about. This was far from true, as testing results determined that solvent levels in the tap water were as much as 280 times higher than what the EPA considers safe today.
There is also evidence that shows the military falsified information to the EPA about when contaminants in the water were discovered and what the contaminants were. Leaking gasoline storage tanks were one of the largest contributors to the water contamination problem, and a Marine Corps document shows personnel at Camp Lejeune knew that storage tanks were leaking fuel and as much as 30,000 gallons had leaked into the ground by 1979. The state of North Carolina and the EPA were not made aware of this situation until 1988, although the Marine Corps claims it told both in 1983.
EPA regulations for the chemicals found in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune were not well definedÂ in the 1980s, which is partÂ of the federal government's defense in the case. This may not hold up well due to the fact that the Department of Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery prohibited harmful substances in the water at military bases, and it was well known that organic chemicals were harmful by the 1970s, if not earlier.
In addition, the U.S. military waited 17 years to start informing those who lived on the base during the time period in question about the side effects of the water contamination and their possible exposure. Many of these individuals had already developed health complications that could be linked to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Core issues in every Camp Lejeune lawsuit process
Every Camp Lejeune lawsuit faces a few core issues that could affect the case. Eligibility requirements to qualify are strict, and plaintiffs must be able to prove they were stationed at Camp Lejeune and their health conditions are related to the contaminated water. The Navy is also being heavily criticized for its lack of movement in processing any of the 45,000 claims it has received since the passing of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Navy attorneys state a lack of funds and staff as the reason they are unable to process the number of claims their office has received.
Although Camp Lejeune cases are being combined, the case is not a typical class action MDL lawsuit. Each plaintiff has a unique case, and attorneys are working with a judge to determine the best way to divide cases to ensure a fair trial and settlement for everyone involved. This is a huge job due to the massive number of cases and the potential for new cases to constantly join the litigation. It can be challenging for attorneys to keep up with changes in thisÂ ongoing case, but steps are being made toward an eventual settlement.
Projected Camp Lejeune settlement amounts
Litigation for the toxic water at Camp Lejeune is ongoing, and to date, no settlements have been paid to plaintiffs. This makes it hard to determine any exact payouts for this case just yet. Settlement amounts for victims of Camp Lejeune's contaminated water will be determined by each plaintiff's condition and the extent of the condition. Attorneys use settlements from similar cases to help them estimate the payout amount expected in this case. Because many of the people who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune have developed cancer, recent settlements for cancer cases are used as a base.
More severe conditions are likely to be awarded a higher dollar settlement than those with less severe conditions, and the length of time plaintiffs spent at Camp Lejeune will come into play as well. For example, someone who was exposed to contaminated water for a few years may develop brain cancer, while someone who only spent a few months at Camp Lejeune may develop anemia or become infertile. While none of the conditions linked to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune are good, there are some that can be more detrimental than others.
Attorneys currently estimate the settlement amounts for plaintiffs in the Camp Lejeune suit to be between $1 million and $1.5 million for those with certain types of cancer and Parkinson's disease. The average settlement amount could be around $150,000, but some suspect this number could double by the time the case is settled. All attorneys involved believe that individual cases will ultimately affect settlement amounts due to the varied health issues of those who were at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987.
Until the case is settled, the estimated amount of compensation for each plaintiff will vary. Currently, the U.S. government has set aside $22 billion to help pay victims of Camp Lejeune's contaminated water. Of course, this fund could fluctuate as details in the case unfold and more people join.
Do you qualify for the Camp Lejeune lawsuit?
To qualify for the Camp Lejeune lawsuit, plaintiffs have to meet a number of requirements. It is vital that an individual proves that they resided or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days â these can be nonconsecutive days â anytime from Aug. 1, 1953, to Dec. 31, 1987. Drinking contaminated water can affect a developing fetus, meaning even those who were in utero while their mother lived or worked at Camp Lejeune can join the lawsuit as long as they meet the other qualifications. Any military member who was dishonorably discharged is not eligible.
Evidence you might need to present to an attorney to qualify for the Camp Lejeune lawsuit includes:
- Your complete medical records for your presumptive or other medical condition.
- Your documentation proving you worked or lived at Camp Lejeune.
- Your military records that state your time in service and locations where you served.
- Your records for any VA or disability benefits you received.
- Your medical bills.
- Your travel records.
Once you present your evidence, an attorney can help determine your eligibility and the level of damages sustained from health issues related to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. The compensation you receive can help with damages from pain and suffering and loss of companionship or enjoyment of life. Your settlement could also help make up for lost wages or your limited earning capacity caused by your health condition.
Talk to an attorney if you lived or work at Camp Lejeune and believe your medical condition, such as cancer or other life-threatening illness, is related to the contaminated water. You may be eligible to join thousands of other veterans who are seeking justice.