Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit: The Impact and Legal Battle of Those Affected

Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit: The Impact and Legal Battle of Those Affected

Last updated Thursday, October 19th, 2023

How a Water Contamination Lawsuit Can Get You the Compensation You Deserve

Drinking Water in Camp LejeuneThe Camp Lejeune water contamination incident was one of the worst cases of public health negligence in America.  Over a million American military personnel, their loved ones, and civilians were exposed to dangerously polluted water. They drank, cooked, and bathed in it for over 30 years before any action was taken to protect them.

What was the source? The water supply at the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

Multiple generations were exposed to this toxic water and ended up developing cancer, birth defects, blood disorders, reproductive problems, and a ton of other issues.

In fact, it’s hard to even consider it as water anymore since it was found laced with 70 chemicals. This toxic cocktail was 240 to 3400 times over the safety limit of water purity for human consumption.

However, there are four highly carcinogenic chemicals that were identified as the biggest problems:

  • Tetrachloroethylene(PCE) – This known carcinogen is mainly used for dry cleaning and degreasing metals. The CDC highlights that long-term exposure to Tetrachloroethylene can cause significant cognitive and sensory defects. It can even lead to severe renal disease and a variety of tumors.
  • Trichloroethylene (TCE) – Trichloroethylene is an industrial solvent often used to clean machinery. Long-term exposure to TCE can lead to kidney cancer according to the Department of Health and Human Services. It can also trigger cardiac arrhythmia, rashes, liver damage, Parkinson’s disease, and kidney damage.
  • Vinyl Chloride– Vinyl chloride is an essential chemical used to manufacture polyvinyl chloride (PVC) equipment. PVC has massive industrial and military applications. So despite Vinyl chloride’s carcinogenic properties, it’s not being heavily regulated. This chemical can trigger liver cancer, lymphoma, lung cancer, nerve damage, brain cancer, miscarriage, birth defects, and leukemia.
  • Benzene– Benzene is another widely used chemical in multiple industries. Even mild exposure to benzene can cause drowsiness, irregular heartbeat, headaches, and confusion. Prolonged exposure can lead to the development of leukemia, blood cancer, and anemia. It can compromise your immune system and even sabotage your menstrual cycles.

Diseases and symptoms of Camp Lejeune water contamination

It’s clear that all these chemicals are synthesized in a factory for human applications. So there’s no way to point fingers at Mother Nature for the toxic water supply? So how did these carcinogens sneak into the water supply? Who was responsible for this gross negligence?

Let’s understand what led up to this crisis. Camp Lejeune utilized its own water supply system that came from massive underground wells. Between 1953 and 1987, two out of their eight water treatment facilities got contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals have high vapor pressure and low solubility in water, which can lead to a host of dangerous health conditions.

The  Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) conducted an investigation and identified multiple sources of contamination such as:

  • Leaking underground storage tanks
  • Industrial area spills
  • Waste disposal areas

For the first water treatment plant, they pointed to a dry cleaning business close to the military base as the source of the PCE contamination. The business owner admitted that their employees had been dumping dry cleaning chemicals into the ground near their facility. These chemicals leached in through the soil and started contaminating the underground water supply.

water treatment facilityThe second water treatment plant was contaminated by TCE, PCE, benzene, and vinyl chloride. Most of these chemicals were linked to the military base failing to dispose of them safely. During rainfall, these chemicals end up leaching through the soil and contaminating the groundwater. These chemicals are quick to contaminate and can last for years without breaking down.

It was a collective failure of the government and some of the Camp Lejeune military base authorities. They never properly tested the water quality or follow proper protocol for disposing of solvents for nearly four decades.

The government passed new regulations in the 1980s, resulting in Camp Lejeune’s water being tested for the first time. Toxic chemicals were first discovered in Camp Lejeune’s water in 1982. However, government officials turned the other way and continued to neglect the severity of the crisis. It took a shocking rise in newborn deaths and birth defects for Camp Lejeune officials to spring into action. They set up an agency to investigate the water contamination at their site and finally revealed their findings to the public in December 1987.

The victims were shocked to know that certain U.S. military officials were aware of the water contamination since 1985. They had conducted an independent investigation to test the water supply after a worker filed a complaint to OSHA.

The history of Camp Lejeune water contamination highlights failures to act and the government’s slow response to the discovered toxic substances. But it also reveals the efforts to keep the dangers quiet, ultimately putting more servicemembers and their families at risk.

Many of the people who were affected by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune did not learn about the contamination until the late 1990s when the ATSDR began researching the long-term effects of the water contamination at the base, whereby they reached out to former Camp Lejeune residents and workers, many of which were inflicted with cancers and other illnesses, who began to realize that they could be sick due to their time at the base.

You might think that three decades of negligence would’ve been enough for the government to learn its lessons. Unfortunately, North Carolina laws prevented Camp Lejeune victims from holding the government liable for any damages. It took a long-fought legal battle just to pass a new federal law to allow these victims to seek justice.

So if you or your loved ones suffered the effects of contaminated water in Camp Lejeune, it’s not too late to seek compensation. Our team of experienced mass tort lawyers will get you the compensation you deserve.

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Eligibility for Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit

It’s important to know if you actually qualify for a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit before you start estimating your damages.

Here are the eligibility criteria you need to meet:

  • You stayed at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days and used the contaminated water between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987
  • You have sufficient medical evidence to prove that your health deteriorated after being exposed to the contaminated water
  • You are a military veteran, worker, or family member of someone who lived in Camp Lejeune during the above period
  • You filed a disability coverage claim in the Department of Navy’s Tort Claims Unit, which was denied or left unprocessed after six months
  • You must file the lawsuit within the statute of limitations

The good news is you don’t need to prove negligence to get what you’re owed under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. However, your compensation sum will depend on the severity of your injuries and the strength of the evidence.

At Shuman Legal, our Camp Lejeune lawsuit attorney will give you a FREE evaluation of what your case is worth.

Health Effects of Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in the water supply are highly carcinogenic. Prolonged exposure will surely lead to severe health issues or fatalities.

There’s nothing mild about the side effects faced by the victims who stayed in Camp Lejeune.

Here are the most commonly reported health conditions linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination:

  • Various cancers – Bladder, breast, cervical, esophageal, kidney, liver, leukemia, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and more
  • Birth defects
  • Anemia
  • Cardiac defects
  • Fatty liver
  • End-stage renal disease
  • ALS
  • Parkinson’s Disease

The ATSDR and the CDC both conducted a detailed examination of the health impact of this crisis. They dug into the medical records of all the Camp Lejeune residents during the period of contamination.

They reported a significantly greater risk of developing colon cancer, multiple myeloma, ALS, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver cancer, and kidney cancer.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act: Empowering Victims

Camp Lejeune SoldierCamp Lejeune water contamination victims were legally helpless for nearly two decades after the disclosure of negligence. The intervention by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) in 2008 and President Obama’s Janey Ensminger Act didn’t help most of the victims.

Over 850 lawsuits that were consolidated into a class action MDL in the Eastern District of North Carolina were dismissed. Why? Because they failed to meet North Carolina’s 10-year statute of repose, which permits plaintiffs to file a lawsuit within ten years of the discovery of the disease.

Ultimately, the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (“PACT”) Act and the Camp Lejeune Justice (“CLJA”) Act proved to be the game-changers. Here’s how they empowered victims:

  • PACT Act – Veterans who were exposed to the contaminated water could access healthcare for any conditions linked to this issue. It also gave them more access to better testing and treatment options.
  • CLJA – It exempted Camp Lejeune claims from North Carolina’s statute of repose and removed the U.S. government’s immunity from liability. It gave victims of toxic exposure a two-year statute of limitations that started in August 2022. This act also lowered the burden of proof for establishing liability.

You can now file a lawsuit against the federal government for the injuries you suffered due to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.

Filing a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit

Here’s a step-by-step guide to initiating a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim:

  1. Eligibility verification – You must’ve lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days between 1953 and 1987. There’s an important pre-condition you need to fulfill before filing a lawsuit. You need to file an administrative claim for disability coverage in the Department of Navy’s Tort Claims Unit in Norfolk, Virginia. They have six months to accept or reject your claim. If they deny your claim, you can go ahead a file a federal lawsuit.
  2. Compiling essential evidence – You must file your lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Your attorney will file a complaint detailing your health conditions and highlight the compensation you’re entitled to. You need to share some essential details with your attorney to build your claim, such as:-
    – Duration of your stay in Camp Lejeune
    – How were you exposed to the contaminated water
    – Military service record or work history
    – Medical diagnosis and treatment history
  3. Understanding damages and liability – The Camp Lejeune Justice Act allows victims to seek the following types of compensation from the government: water contamination victims are eligible for a variety of different types of compensation, including:
  • Past or projected medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning potential
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disabilities or scarring
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death

The Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit is turning out to be one of the largest mass torts in history. There are over 1067 pending lawsuits and nearly 15,000 claimants eligible to file lawsuits. The Department of Navy is struggling to process the massive volume of claims.

It’s important to note that lawsuits against the government are always tricky. They are armed with strong legal defenses to escape liability. It’s also going to be challenging to collect all the evidence you need considering the huge case timeline.

Many of your affected loved ones may have even passed away, which will require you to file wrongful death claims. You need a lawyer who can cut through the documentation clutter and effectively challenge the government’s legal defenses.

At Shuman Legal, our team of knowledgeable mass tort lawyers will take care of every step for you. We’re familiar with all the old and updated legislation involved in this case to take the best course of legal action. You don’t have to worry about taking on more debt to pay our legal fees. In fact, you don’t have to pay us a dime until we win your settlement.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is eligible to file a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?

You need to meet the following criteria to qualify for a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit:

  • You must’ve resided or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987
  • You have a clear history of medical evidence to support that your health issues were linked to the water contamination
  • You are a military veteran, worker, or family member of someone who lived in Camp Lejeune during the contamination period
  • You must file the lawsuit between August 2022 to August 2024
  • You must have filed a disability coverage claim in the Department of Navy’s TCU, which was either denied or not processed after six months

What are the potential health effects of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune?

Here are some potential health hazards faced by victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Blood cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Birth defects
  • Cardiac defects
  • Anemia
  • Fatty liver
  • End-stage renal disease
  • ALS
  • Parkinson’s Disease

What evidence is crucial for a successful lawsuit?

Here is some essential evidence you’ll need to ensure you get the settlement you deserve:

  • Identification proof showing your military service or relation to someone who lived in Camp Lejeune during the contamination period
  • You have proof of residence/work history at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987
  • Medical reports and diagnosis by a licensed medical practitioner linking your health issues to the water contamination
  • A clear record of treatment history
  • Medical bills

What types of damages can be sought in the claims?

Here are the types of damages you can seek by filing a water contamination claim against the government:

  • Past or projected medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning potential
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disabilities or scarring
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death

How does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act impact the legal rights of affected individuals?

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was introduced to legally empower victims to seek compensation from the government. It simplifies the process of filing a claim and significantly reduces the burden of proof on the plaintiffs.

You only have to meet the eligibility criteria mentioned above. This law compels government authorities to take responsibility for their negligence. Basically, it helps clear your path to quick and fair compensation.


Who may be held liable for the water contamination at Camp Lejeune?

Here are the primary authorities that can be held liable for their role in the water contamination at Camp Lejeune:

  • Government authorities
  • Military officials that were involved in unsafe disposal practices
  • Military officials that were aware of the water contamination, but failed to take any action to protect people
  • Businesses that were involved in dumping toxic chemicals in an unsafe way

How can Shuman Legal assist potential claimants in their legal battle?

The Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit is escalating into one of the largest mass torts against the government. The scope of the lawsuit is massive, but fighting against the government is always a harder battle.

It literally took a series of laws passed 30-40 years after the public disclosure of the contamination for victims to initiate fruitful legal action. They will continue to put up strong legal defenses to delay your compensation.

You also need to navigate through a lot of complex litigation and piles of documents before you even file a claim. The long case timeline will make it challenging for you to gather evidence.

Shuman Legal has a proven track record of winning mass torts against governments and large corporations. We’ll take charge of every step – from filing your claim to winning your settlement. And you don’t have to pay us anything until we win.

Call us today to get a FREE case review.


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