May 05, 2023

Camp Lejeune lawsuits slam North Carolina federal court

Posted by : ZeroRisk Cases Marketing


(Reuters) – More than 900 lawsuits against the U.S. government have flowed into a federal court in North Carolina since a law enacted in August enabled veterans and their families to bring claims for exposure to contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

The four judges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina are dealing with three times its usual number of civil cases since the start of the year, said Court Clerk Peter Moore Jr. The cases at the federal court, which are not part of multidistrict litigation or any other type of consolidation, could ultimately number in the thousands.

President Joe Biden in August signed the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, or PACT Act, which removed the government’s blanket defenses to liability over Camp Lejeune, which had barred nearly all claims over the water in court. The PACT Act set up an administrative claims process, with no specific fund created, for people to seek compensation.

So far, more than 45,000 administrative claims have been filed with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit in Norfolk, Virginia, a Navy spokesperson said. The government can choose to accept liability and offer compensation in response to the administrative claims, but it hasn’t resolved any of them yet, the spokesperson said.

The PACT Act does not set a deadline for the resolution of claims, but it allows for victims and families to sue in North Carolina federal court if the administrative claim is not resolved after six months.

When the first claims passed the six-month threshold in February, hundreds of cases began flooding the court’s dockets.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Myers did not respond to a request for comment.

On April 25, the judges signed a joint order giving plaintiffs’ attorneys working on Camp Lejeune cases until the end of May to put forward a proposed leadership team to help draft plans to manage complaints, discovery, and settlement discussions. The court was given funding to hire three additional administrators and two more law clerks to help with the load, Moore said.

None of the court cases, which are in the early stages of litigation, has settled yet, according to Moore. The U.S. Justice Department, which is defending against the lawsuits, declined to comment.

The Department of Health and Human Services has acknowledged that chemicals in the water, which was contaminated from 1953 to 1987, may have increased the risk of cancer and other health problems for as many as one million people.

Mikal Watts of Watts Guerra — who is representing, among other Camp Lejeune clients, a veteran who said his daughter died in 1985 from the water — said the expectation when the law passed was that the majority of the claims would be settled in the administrative process, not through federal lawsuits.

In a recent hearing in a group of Camp Lejeune cases in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle had a terse response to U.S. Justice Department attorneys when they asked for additional time to respond to the lawsuits.

“After eight months of nonactivity in each and every one of these claims, it’s not readily apparent that the government needs additional time,” Boyle said in a court order. “Eight months should be sufficient.”

Boyle did not respond to a request for comment.

Be Sociable, Share!