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Overwhelming Number of Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Before North Carolina Federal Court
Legal Examiner Staffer May 24, 2023
Since President Biden signed the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in August 2022, the four judges overseeing Camp Lejeune lawsuits against the U.S. government are dealing with three times the number of expected court cases. The Eastern District of North Carolina judges have more than 900 lawsuits against the U.S. government. The lawsuits have been filed by veterans and family members exposed to contaminated water while living and working at Camp Lejeune.
The PACT Act removed the government’s blanket liability over Camp Lejeune claims. Prior to August, nearly all claims related to the severely contaminated water at Camp Lejeune were barred from having their time in court. Under the PACT Act, an administrative claims process was established to seek compensation. The Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy’s Torts Claims Unit in Norfolk, Virginia, has received more than 45,000 administrative claims. The Navy spokesperson has shared that the government can offer compensation and accept liability in response to more than 45,000 claims but, at this time, has not resolved any claims.
The PACT Act did not set a concrete deadline for resolving these Camp Lejeune claims. But if an administrative claim has not been resolved after six months, victims and their families are permitted to sue in federal court in North Carolina. In February, the first claims passed their six-month threshold, which accounts for the growth in the number of claims.
On April 25, the judges signed a joint order giving plaintiffs’ lawyers instructions to put together a leadership team. The leadership team would set forth plans to manage settlement discussions, discovery, and manage complaints. It’s important to note that these lawsuits are not part of multi-district litigation (MDL) or any type of consolidation. Experts believe that case totals will swell in numbers. The court was provided additional funding to hire two additional law clerks and three additional administrators to help manage the load. At this point, the court claims are in the early stage of litigation and have not been settled.
Why You Should Consult a Camp Lejeune Attorney
Anyone who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune who has experienced illnesses due to the contaminated water should consider filing a claim. Consulting with a Camp Lejeune attorney with experience in filing claims can help you determine whether your claim is eligible to proceed. The volatile organic compounds (VOC) and other harmful chemicals discovered in the contaminated water have been connected to severe health conditions, including kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, birth defects, and many types of cancer. Those with serious health conditions should file a claim to determine eligibility and whether compensation is available.
History of Camp Lejeune
Built in 1952 in North Carolina, Camp Lejeune is a state-of-the-art U.S. Marine Corps Base, home to active-duty military, veterans, their families, and civilian employees. Since it was established, around a million people have lived and worked at Camp Lejeune. Between 1953 and 1989, Camp Lejeune’s water was severely contaminated, putting everyone on the base’s health at risk.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers medical coverage and disability benefits for specific illnesses associated with Camp Lejeune water contamination. However, some with health conditions connected to VOC and other chemicals found in the water could not seek compensation for damages, including pain and suffering and other demands. The PACT Act was signed into law, removing these obstacles.
During a hearing on April 25, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle was asked by U.S. Justice attorneys for an extension to respond to lawsuits before the courts. In response, Judge Boyle issued this ruling. “After eight months of nonactivity in each and every one of these claims, it’s not readily apparent that the government needs additional time,” the order read. “Eight months should be sufficient.”
Seeking legal advice and representation by an experienced Camp Lejeune attorney can help ensure your claim and experience are filed and taken seriously. Even if you received disability benefits and support from the VA, you can still file a claim. For all those affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, holding someone accountable is a necessary step on the journey to justice.
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