Posted by : Irvin Jackson
Two veterans with terminal cancer from Camp Lejeune water contamination have asked the Court to preserve their deposition testimony while they exhaust administrative remedies required under a new law.
- Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allows service members and family members exposed to contaminated water on the bast between 1953 and 1987 to pursue claims for cancer and other injuries
- Prior to filing a water contamination lawsuit, each claimant must wait six months for the U.S. government to make a Camp Lejeune settlement offer
- Petition asks for an order allowing their pre-suit deposition to preserve testimony that may be lost if they die
- Tens of thousands of Camp Lejeune claimants are awaiting the opportunity to file their lawsuits
Two claimants who suffer from life-threatening cancers caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination have filed a petition in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, asking the Court to issue an order allowing their deposition testimony to be preserved while they wait for the U.S. government to complete an administrative review before they can file their lawsuit.
Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps. base in North Carolina, which was plagued with toxic water contamination between the 1950s and late 1980s, and had been blamed for causing tens of thousands of cases involving cancer diagnosed among veterans and family members who were exposed to the contaminated water. However, since the problems were not discovered for decades, the U.S. government was previously able to routinely deny claims, arguing they were barred under the North Carolina statute of limitations or other qualified immunity defenses.
In August, President Joe Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which opened a two-year window for individuals to pursue claims over injuries caused by exposure to contaminated water on the North Carolina base between 1953 and 1987, even if they were previously denied benefits.
The new law requires that all Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which has been granted exclusive jurisdiction over the claims. However, prior to pursuing a claim in court, claimants are first required to go through an administrative process, which gives the U.S. government six months to offer a Camp Lejeune injury settlement before any lawsuit can be filed. However, many Camp Lejeune claimants are facing dire health conditions, and may not live long enough to file their lawsuit
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.
On January 12, plaintiffs Robert Howard Sauer and Gary Edward Johnson filed a petition (PDF) calling for the preservation of their testimony while their lawsuits go through the administrative review process, asking that the Court require pre-suit depositions so that a jury will be able to hear their direct testimony in the future.
“Specifically, Petitioners were each during the pertinent times military servicemembers who assert and state for the purposes of this Verified Petition, and will in due course allege in their prospective merits claims, that they were stationed in relevant areas at Camp Lejeune, were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune during relevant times, that they have since been diagnosed with relevant illnesses, and that they otherwise intend to allege merits claims under the CLJA in due course upon the appropriate exhaustion of the administrative pre- suit claims process that is now commenced or is shortly to commence for each of said servicemember Petitioners herein,” the petition states. “However, Petitioners cannot bring such merits claims against the United States Respondent in Court at this time, due to the requirement under the CLJA with regard to first exhausting the pre-suit administrative claims process.”
Both men say they have developed cancer from the Camp Lejeune water, and have been told their conditions are terminal, giving more reason for their testimony to be preserved, as they may not live to see the entire process completed.
Sauer, 88, has been diagnosed with skin cancer, carcinoid cancer, and bladder cancer from Camp Lejeune water contamination. The petition indicates he was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy and served as a medical doctor on the base for two years from about 1964 to 1966. However, in March 2022, he was told he had only six months to two years to live.
Johnson, 80, also served on the base for about two years during the 1960s. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer from Camp Lejeune water in 2017. He has also been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, chronic kidney disease, and hepatic steatosis, and is not expected to survive longer than a year, according to the petition.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claims
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 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.
Prior to filing a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, the new law requires each claimant to provide notice of their claim to the U.S. Navy, which must deny the claim in writing or fail to resolve the claim within six months.
According to a recent report, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate’s General’s (JAG) Corps has confirmed that about 14,000 claims have already been filed since the Act’s passage, which likely only represents a fraction of the total number of claims that will be pursued for Camp Lejeune water contamination settlements.
January 2023 Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Update
With the first notices presented in August 2022, it is expected that the number of Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits will begin to skyrocket in February 2023, and likely continue to increase steadily over the subsequent two years.
Although the U.S. Government has acknowledged that toxic chemicals contaminated the Camp Lejeune water for decades, the new law still places the burden of proof on individual plaintiffs to establish that their specific injury was caused by the toxic water. Camp Lejeune claimants are pursuing a settlement for a wide range of cancers linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination, including:
- 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 reported side effects in Camp Lejeune injury claims include:
- 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)
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