Camp Lejeune Water Lawsuit News & Updates March 11th, 2023
How Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Claims Are Proceeding
For over three decades, veterans and their families drank and bathed in toxic water that have caused a number of potentially fatal illnesses. Groundwater sources were located in proximity to several contaminants that are known carcinogens. The result is that veterans and their families have developed the following illnesses:
● Adult leukemia.
● Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes.
● Bladder cancer.
● Kidney cancer.
● Liver cancer.
● Multiple myeloma.
● Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
● Parkinson’s disease
15,000 Claims Have Been Filed to Date with Many More on the Way
There are hundreds of thousands of people who are potentially eligible to file claims for compensation for the illnesses that they have suffered from being exposed to toxic contaminants in their water when they were stationed at Camp Lejeune. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act requires that injured victims and their families first file a claim with the Federal government. It is only once this process concludes that a victim can file a lawsuit in federal court in North Carolina. First, the government must analyze the claim and respond, either by denying it or by making a settlement offer. By the end of the calendar year 2022, there were reports that over 14,000 claims had been filed with the Department of defense. This number is a small fraction of the expected amount of anticipated claims. Congress has estimated that the federal government may have $6 billion of legal liability for the toxic Camp Lejeune water.
The Government Has a Limited Amount of Time to Respond to the Claim
The Department of Defense has six months to review each individual claim filed by victims and their families. Within this period, the government would respond to the claim by either denying it or making a settlement offer. If the government does not respond to the claim by the conclusion of the sixth month. It would be deemed to be denied. Then, the victim would need to file their lawsuit in federal court. Victims are prohibited from going straight to Federal court. They must first exhaust their administrative remedies with the Department of Defense before they can file a lawsuit.
Victims Would Need to Refile Old Claims
One major issue surrounding these claims is the fact that many people filed plans with the Department of Defense more than a decade ago. The Department of Defense denied these claims, both because of the Feres doctrine and the fact that they were barred by a North Carolina statute of repose. The claimants filed a lawsuit in federal court because their claim was
denied. Recently, a federal court has dismissed these lawsuits on the grounds that the claimants need to exhaust their administrative remedies before they can file a lawsuit. The claimants had argued that they already filed a claim that was denied, but the court is now making them go through the claims process anew. This now would introduce an additional six-month delay and require the claimants to negotiate a settlement individually with the government. For them, justice is even further delayed after having to wait decades for the right to file a lawsuit.
Camp lejeune water Lawsuit updates and news
The fact that the government has gone into federal court to argue that claimants must exhaust their administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit shows that the Department of Defense could take a hard line toward these claims once they are filed. The fact that compensation is available does not mean that the government will fully and fairly compensate people who deserve it. Currently, the Navy is now alerting people who have already filed claims in the past that they need to refile. However, this requirement is making life more difficult for people who need to go through the legal process again.
There May Be a Large Backlog of Claims
There is an additional question of whether the Department of Defense has the capability to process and respond to such a large number of claims within a short amount of time. If the Department of Defense has a backlog and is not able to handle all the claims, the law would force the claimants into Federal court, adding additional time to their cases. Already, many people who have filed claims report that they have not received any acknowledgment of the claim from the Department of Defense months after their initial filing.
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The fact that only 14,000 people have filed claims thus far means that there may be a large influx of claims in the future in a short period of time. Claimants have until August 2024 to file their claims, and many of them are in the process of working with attorneys or looking for lawyers in the first place. The Department of Defense may be assigning these claims to existing
JAG attorneys already on their payrolls, as opposed to hiring new people to deal with a large volume of new work. There could be as many as one million claims filed by people who were exposed to toxic water. Camp Lejeune claims are just one of a number of claims that can now be filed with the Department of Defense after the passage of the PACT Act. Veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan also have the ability to file legal claims. In total, the Department of Defense has received over 200,000 claims to date. Thus, the government may be inundated with claims without the ability to respond to each one in time.
Victims May Still Need to Fight for Compensation
How the Camp Lejeune claims have proceeded so far is a reminder that, even though victims won the battle in front of Congress, there is still a further battle to be fought. Camp Lejeune victims have already been through a lengthy legal struggle, and the fact that compensation and benefits are available does not mean that they will actually get it. Even though these victims were legally entitled to benefits from the Veterans Administration, they have had to fight a long battle to get these benefits in the face of the government’s intransigence and inability to handle claims.
If you have not yet filed a claim for compensation, you have a limited amount of time to do so. You should work with an experienced attorney to file your claim and negotiate compensation, knowing that the government may not make this process easy. The passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was just the first step, and there is an extensive process that must still be followed.