Posted by : Irvin Jackson
With a growing number of lawsuits over Camp Lejeune water contamination being filed, the U.S. government asked for additional time to file individual answers in each case, since the Court may establish coordinated pretrial proceedings.
A federal judge has granted the U.S. Department of Justice’s request for additional time before it needs to file responsive answers to recently filed Camp Lejeune lawsuits, while the government awaits a decision from the Court about whether streamlined processes or procedures will be established to help manage the rapidly growing litigation.
Last summer, President Joe Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CJLA) of 2022 into law, which opened a two-year window for veterans, military family members, and other individuals exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to file a lawsuit against the U.S. government, which had previously denied all claims under qualified immunity defenses and the North Carolina Statute of Repose.
As a result, thousands of marines and their family members are now pursuing Camp Lejeune settlement benefits for various types of cancer, neurological disorders, and other diseases linked to contaminants in the water.
Camp Lejeune Lawsuits
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.
The new law requires that all lawsuits over Camp Lejeune water contamination be brought in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which has been granted exclusive jurisdiction over the claims. However, the lawsuits are currently assigned to various different judges in the district, and the Court has not yet established coordination protocols to avoid duplicate pretrial proceedings and potentially conflicting rulings.
Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Coordination Under Consideration
Camp Lejeune lawyers indicate about 500 plaintiffs have already filed lawsuits, which are currently pending before different U.S. District Judges. To increase efficiency, reduce duplicative discovery, and avoid inconsistent rulings, Camp Lejeune lawyers filed a motion to consolidate the litigation last month, asking that the cases all be assigned to one judge for pretrial proceedings, or that the Court established procedures to help manage the litigation.
U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III, one of several judges overseeing Camp Lejeune claims, held a status conference on April 5 to discuss the status of claims pending in his Court. During the conference, Judge Dever discussed the possibility of establishing a master docket and assigning plaintiffs’ attorneys to certain leadership positions, which could apply to all Camp Lejeune lawsuits filed in the North Carolina federal court. Similar to multidistrict litigation, this would allow more coordinated pretrial proceedings as the litigation continues to develop, increasing efficiency for the parties involved.
As a result, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to extend the time to file answers (PDF) to each individual plaintiffs’ complaint filed so far, indicating that it believes that potential procedures discussed during the status conference may address the need for the government to file individual answers in each case.
“Given that the potential procedures discussed during April 5, 2023, hearing may affect the filing of answers, the United States believes that it would be more efficient for the Court and all parties if an extension for filing individual answers is granted in case the anticipated Order on the hearing addresses the filing of individual answers,” according to the motion. “This motion is not made for the purpose of delay, but instead, to await the Court’s decision on any processes or procedures for Camp Lejeune Justice Act Cases.”
In a text-only order issued on the day the request was filed, the Court granted an extension on filing individual answers until May 31, 2023. The Court has not yet ruled on the motion to consolidate the pretrial proceedings, or given any indication when a case management order may be issued to establish streamlined processes for managing the litigation.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The number of Camp Lejeune lawsuits is expected to increase dramatically over the coming months and may become one of the largest mass tort claims in U.S. history.
Estimates suggest more than a million Marines and their family members were exposed to contaminated Camp Lejeune water between the early 1950s and late 1980s, with some reports suggesting that toxic chemicals from Camp Lejeune may be responsible for more than 50,000 cases of breast cancer, 28,000 cases of bladder cancer, and 24,000 cases of renal cancer, as well as thousands of cases involve Parkinsonâs disease and other health complications. It is also believed Camp Lejeune water caused birth defects and wrongful death for thousands of unborn children exposed in utero.
Although the U.S. government has acknowledged that toxic chemicals contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune for decades, the new law still places the burden of proof on individual plaintiffs to establish that their specific injury was caused by toxic water and the amount of any Camp Lejeune water contamination payout they should receive.
The U.S. Navy indicates at least 25,000 claims have been filed to date, but no settlements have been reported.
The law requires each claimant to establish that they were exposed to Camp Lejeune water for at least 30 days between August 1953 and December 31, 1987, and provide expert testimony or support to establish that there is a causal relationship between the Camp Lejeune water and injury, or that such a relationship is at least as likely as not.
At this time, Camp Lejeune injury lawyers are reviewing claims for a wide variety of cancers and other complications that may have been caused by the chemicals in the water, including:
Camp Lejeune Cancers:
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Brain Cancer
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Central Nervous System Cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colon Cancer/Colorectal Cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Hodgkins Lymphoma
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Prostate Cancer
- Rectal Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer
Other Side Effects from Camp Lejeune Water:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal Toxicity/Kidney Disease
- Kidney Damage
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
- Aplastic anemia
- Birth defects
- Female Infertility
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Epilepsy (seizures)
- Immune Disorders
- Nerve Damage
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS or Pre-Leukemia)
- Neurobehavioral effects (tremors, lack of coordination, movement or motor problems or other symptoms consistent with undiagnosed Parkinsonâs disease)
Tags: Camp Lejeune, Military, North Carolina, Veterans, Veterans Affairs, Water Contamination
The post DOJ Granted Extension For Filing Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Answers, Awaiting Court’s Decision on Procedures appeared first on AboutLawsuits.com.
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