For more than three decades, the water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was contaminated with a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) known to be dangerous to human health. From Aug. 1953 to Dec. 1987, people who worked at and lived on this military installation were exposed to dangerous and toxic substances. Many went on to develop life-altering illnesses, diseases, and conditions.
The passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 created a legal path for victims to recover compensation from the federal government. But if it was passed nearly one year ago, why are Camp Lejeune water contamination victims still waiting for compensation?
Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a streamlined and straightforward process has been riddled with hurdles and roadblocks.
- The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 created a two-year window for victims to file claims.
- More than 45,000 administrative claims and 900 lawsuits have been filed under the Act.
- The United States government has yet to award a single cent of compensation to victims.
The Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Administrative Claims Process
For anyone who was diagnosed with certain illnesses, cancers, or birth defects after being exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, filing an administrative claim is the first step to recovering compensation. This claim is filed with the Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps.
After receiving your administrative claim, lawyers with JAG have up to 180 days (six months) to review your case and make a decision. Ideally, you should be able to expect one of two outcomes:
- Your claim to be accepted, resulting in a settlement.
- Your claim to be rejected, giving you the right to file a lawsuit.
So far, toxic water contamination victims have only received one of the above responses.
How Many Administrative Claims Have Been Settled?
None of the more than 45,000 administrative claims that have been filed with the U.S. Navy JAG Corps have been resolved. While it was certainly expected that a portion of administrative claims would not end in a settlement, few people (if any) could have anticipated this type of blanket rejection of justice.
Passed as part of the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act promised a path toward justice and compensation for those who had been harmed by the contaminated water. The reality of its implication seems to be operating in a manner opposite to its intent.
The Next Step After the Administrative Claims Process
If an administrative claim is not settled after a period of six months, victims gain the right to file a lawsuit against the federal government. This lawsuit must be filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina regardless of where the victim currently lives.
Due to the nature of military life, many people who lived and served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune now live all over the United States. This can make filing a lawsuit exceptionally complicated, especially for those who are simultaneously trying to manage serious or life-altering conditions caused by the contaminated water they were exposed to.
Lawsuits filed in federal court tend to be much more complex than those filed in state courts. This means there are more steps and hurdles involved, and the time it takes to resolve a case can be much longer.
If you need help filing a lawsuit or navigating the complexities of federal court, please do not hesitate to contact the experienced law office of Frost Law Firm, PC.
How Many Water Contamination Lawsuits Have Been Filed, and Have Any Been Settled?
More than 900 people who have been denied compensation during the administrative claim process have gone on to file lawsuits. The U.S. Justice Department has not resolved even a single Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit.
Marines, veterans, dependents, contract workers, and civil employees are still waiting for the government to uphold its end of the bargain.
The Government’s Response to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claims and Lawsuits
Despite the assurance of justice promised by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, the U.S. government has repeatedly shown its disinterest in helping Marines, dependents, contract workers, and civil employees.
Why Are Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Victims Still Waiting for Compensation?
The defenses cited by the United States have, thus far, been wildly disappointing. At their most basic, these defenses boil down to blaming Marines and other victims for the water contamination, exposure, and subsequent illnesses.
In other words, the U.S. government claims that the victims are to blame for their own illnesses. This is a particularly confusing defense given that the Department of Justice has already acknowledged causal contamination of the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also pays disability benefits to veterans for conditions related to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water.
In one lawsuit (Warren v. United States of America, No. 23-cv-00091), the government cited the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages, assumption of risk, and contributory negligence as reasons for barring recovery. This breaks down to a defense that claims:
- The plaintiff did not take reasonable care needed to “avoid or lessen the consequences” of exposure,
- The plaintiff voluntarily assumed all risks associated with the exposure, and
- The plaintiff also acted negligently, contributing to injury, damage, or loss.
This response is not unique.
Again and again, victims who have developed cancer, Parkinson’s disease, neural damage, and other life-altering conditions are filing lawsuits only to be met with resistance. These are men and women who were victimized once through the preventable contamination of their drinking water, and who are being victimized again through the government’s refusal to help.
So while the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 signaled hope to those who had been wrongly exposed to toxic water, nearly a year later, we have witnessed the way that the United States intends to handle these cases.
Find the Right Legal Representation for Your Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claim
Your life was irreparably and irreversibly harmed, and you deserve a chance at justice. Frost Law Firm, PC wants to give you that fighting chance.
We understand just how much is on the line and just how much you’re up against. Our North Carolina-based experienced water contamination lawyer is prepared to be your fierce and unrivaled legal advocate.
No matter where you are in the process, we can help. Please contact us online or by phone, and we’ll schedule you for a completely free case evaluation at your earliest convenience.