The Battle for Justice at Camp Lejeune: A Look at the Lawsuit

by Laura C. Jones
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In the 1980s and early 1990s, the citizens of Camp Lejeune drank water that was contaminated with toxic chemicals. Most of those exposed have not been compensated for their health problems, but that could change soon.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 22, signed into law by President Biden on 10th August 2022, allows veterans and their families who suffered various illnesses because of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune to seek legal compensation from the government.

This article explores the history of Camp Lejeune’s water contamination and what it means for victims and their families.

The Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

The lawsuit was filed in 2012. It is a class action lawsuit, meaning that it represents people who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune and experienced health effects from exposure to toxic chemicals.

The suit was filed against the federal government, which owns the land where the contamination occurred, as well as various companies that operated Camp Lejeune.

The plaintiffs claim that exposure to these chemicals has caused them serious harm, including cancer, liver damage, and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease, which are often associated with chemical exposure.

The contamination also caused miscarriages among pregnant women who lived at or worked at Camp Lejeune during its years of contamination.

According to a Reuters report, 5,000 claims over contaminated water at Camp Lejeune were filed in the first month (Aug-Sep, 2022) since the new legislation removed many roadblocks for the case. It set up the potential for one of the largest mass litigations in American history.

A Brief Timeline of Events

The following is a brief timeline of events at Camp Lejeune:

  • 1953 – The U.S. Marine Corps begins testing an experimental chemical called TCE (trichloroethylene) at its base in North Carolina while also disposing of contaminated wastewater in open-air pits.
  • 1984 – A report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry finds that human exposure to TCE can lead to cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, and birth defects.
  • 1987 – Camp Lejeune opened its first onsite health clinic for sick veterans who served at the base between 1953 and 1987. However, many veterans do not know about this resource until years later when they experience symptoms like nausea or dizziness after drinking water from their taps.
  • The water was still being contaminated with TCE up until 2010, when the EPA finally began monitoring them again after being absent from monitoring processes since 1985.

The Plaintiffs

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are the people affected by the contamination at Camp Lejeune. They include both veterans and civilians with family members who served at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, as well as families of Marines who may have been exposed while on active duty or training there.

The plaintiffs aren’t all military personnel or veterans. They’re also people who had no direct connection to the base but were exposed nonetheless by drinking contaminated water or breathing air polluted with chemicals like TCE, PCE, and benzene (all known carcinogens).

The lawsuit aims to hold Marine Corps officials accountable for knowingly exposing those individuals who were not part of their mission to dangerous toxins without warning them about what they were drinking or breathing.

The majority of these victims are men. However, women had also developed breast cancer due to their exposure during pregnancy or breastfeeding when their babies were born prematurely due to fetal alcohol syndrome caused by toxic chemicals passing through their bodies from mother’s milk into infant formula made from contaminated tap water.

The Defendants

The defendants are the U.S. government and the seven companies that supplied water to Camp Lejeune. They’re being sued for negligence, fraud, and conspiracy because they knew about contamination at the base but failed to warn anyone or take action to prevent further harm.

The plaintiffs aren’t seeking medical monitoring for their injuries. Instead, they’re seeking damages from these companies that would cover things like lost wages, out-of-pocket costs for treatment, mental anguish, and pain caused by exposure to contaminated water during their time at Camp Lejeune.

What Is the Goal of the Lawsuit?

The goal of the Camp Lejeune lawsuit is to get justice for the people who got sick and to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. There are many different goals within this lawsuit.

One is compensation for the people harmed by their exposure to toxic chemicals while stationed at Camp Lejeune.

Another is getting a clean water system in place so that if similar situations arise again, there will be no risk of exposure to harmful materials.

Finally, there are also monetary awards being sought as part of this case. According to the Bloomberg Law, an economic scorekeeper for the Congressional Budget Office, estimates the claims will cost the government about USD 6.1 billion over 10 years.

Why are some of the U.S. House Representatives involved in the lawsuit?

The representatives are involved because they are elected representatives of the people and want to see justice done. They also want to ensure that the victims of this tragedy are treated fairly.

What Are the Next Steps for This Lawsuit?

The next step for this lawsuit is for a judge to decide if it can go to trial. If the case moves forward, then a jury will determine whether the defendants are liable for their actions and how much money should be awarded in damages.

Conclusion

Since the start of the Lejeune investigation, many people have been affected by this tragedy. Veterans who served at Camp Lejeune have been diagnosed with cancer, which could have been caused by toxic water pollution.

Families who lived on the base and drank contaminated water suffered health problems as well. If you or someone you know has been affected by Camp Lejeune contamination, please contact your lawyers today.

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