Learn Everything You Need to Know About Filing a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit and Get a Free Consultation from an Attorney
Under a new federal law enacted on August 10, 2022, individuals and families of individuals who were exposed to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 can now file lawsuits to recover their losses from the federal government. Given the number of veterans, civil servants, contractors, and family members expected to file claims—and the limited filing period—we strongly recommend that anyone who believes they may have a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit speak with a lawyer promptly.
Our lawyers are representing individuals and families in Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits nationwide. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about filing a claim. To discuss your legal rights with a lawyer in confidence, contact us for a free consultation today.
What Happened to the Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune
Between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, the drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated by industrial solvents. Studies conducted during this period found that levels of these solvents in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water were often several thousand times higher than the levels considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Yet, little was done to address the problem, and Camp Lejeune’s drinking water remained unsafe for years despite knowledge of the risks it presented.
The industrial solvents that contaminated Camp Lejeune’s drinking water contained four types of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) known—in the 1980s—to present risks for various types of cancer and other serious health conditions. The VOCs found in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water included:
- Benzene – Benzene is a byproduct of various commercial processes that is also used in gasoline and other hazardous products. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the federal government “has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans.”
- Tetrachloroethylene – Tetrachloroethylene is a chemical solvent commonly used in a variety of military and commercial applications. The CDC labels tetrachloroethylene as a “potential occupational carcinogen,” and notes that exposure can also damage the liver, respiratory system, and other bodily organs and systems.
- Trichloroethylene – Trichloroethylene is another type of chemical solvent, similar to tetrachloroethylene. However, trichloroethylene is classified as a “known human carcinogen,” and it is known to cause various other health problems as well.
- Vinyl Chloride – Vinyl chloride is a byproduct of tetrachloroethylene and trichloroethylene that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) lists among its known “cancer-causing substances.” According to the NCI, “[v]inyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia.”
These VOCs were present in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune for decades. Various studies have concluded that between 700,000 and 1,000,000 million servicemembers, civil servants, contractors, and family members were exposed to these VOCs and faced health risks as a result. While the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has long fought benefit claims related to contaminated drinking water exposure at Camp Lejeune, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 now provides a clear path to financial recovery for those who have been affected.
Medical Conditions Linked to the Drinking Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune
Several medical conditions have been linked to the drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987. This includes multiple types of cancer as well as various other health conditions that have the potential for life-altering or life-threatening effects.
Cancers Linked to Camp Lejeune’s Contaminated Drinking Water
Types of cancer linked to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated drinking water include:
- Bladder cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Other Medical Conditions Linked to Camp Lejeune
Other serious health conditions linked to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated drinking water include:
- Birth defects
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Renal toxicity
- Parkinson’s disease
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022
President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act into law on August 10, 2022. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act is part of the Honoring Our Pact Act (the “PACT Act”), which offers a variety of benefits to servicemembers, their loved ones, and other eligible individuals.
Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act:
“An individual, including a veteran . . . or the legal representative of such an individual, who resided, worked, or was otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that was supplied by, or on behalf of, the United States may bring an action . . . to obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.”
Eligible individuals have up to two years from the date of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act’s enactment to file a claim. This means the deadline to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination claim is August 9, 2024. As discussed in the FAQs below, individuals must pursue administrative claims before filing lawsuits in court; and, if an individual’s administrative claim is denied, the individual has 180 days from the date of denial to file a lawsuit even if this means filing after August 9, 2024.
Are You Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
If you or a loved one was exposed to VOCs in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune, are you eligible to file a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit? The basic eligibility criteria are as follows:
1. Exposure to Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune Between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987
Compensation is only available to individuals who were exposed to Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. This includes servicemembers, civil servants, contractors, and family members residing at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune as well as individuals who were exposed in utero (regardless of whether they were born on the base).
2. Exposure for At Least 30 Days
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act requires claimants to prove that they were exposed to the base’s contaminated drinking water for at least 30 days. There are various ways to prove that an individual meets this 30-day requirement, including military records, employment records, housing records, and medical records (among others).
3. Harm Caused By Exposure to Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune
Only individuals (and family members of individuals) who suffered harm caused by their exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune are entitled to receive compensation under the new law. This “harm” may be any of the forms of cancer listed above, any of the other health conditions listed above, or any other health condition diagnosed as being the result of exposure to benzene, tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, or vinyl chloride.
4. Sufficient Evidence of a Causal Relationship
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act requires claimants to “show one or more relationships between the water at Camp Lejeune and the harm” stated in their claims. Under the law, claimants can meet this burden of proof by submitting evidence that is either:
- “[S]ufficient to conclude that a causal relationship exists;” or,
- “[S]ufficient to conclude that a causal relationship is at least as likely as not.”
This means that even if your doctor says there is just a 50/50 chance your (or your loved one’s) health condition is the result of exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, this is enough to establish your right to financial compensation.
5. Filing Before the Deadline Expires
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act has a two-year statute of limitations that runs from the law’s date of enactment, which was August 10, 2022. Claimants must file their initial claims within this two-year “limitations period” to preserve their legal rights.
Why To Choose Oberheiden P.C. for Your Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit
For individuals affected by the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act truly provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to recover just compensation. As a result, claimants need to choose their legal representation wisely. Here are five reasons why you should choose the lawyers at Oberheiden P.C. to handle your Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit:
- Our Lawyers Have Centuries of Relevant Experience – Collectively, our lawyers have centuries of experience representing clients in federal administrative claims and litigation.
- We Focus Our Practice on Handling Federal Cases – Most law firms focus on handling cases in state court. At Oberheiden P.C., we focus our practice on handling federal cases.
- Several of Our Lawyers Worked at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) – Several of our lawyers served as U.S. Attorneys and Assistant U.S. Attorneys before joining our firm.
- We Have a Proven Track Record in Federal Administrative and Civil Litigation – Our lawyers have successfully resolved thousands of cases at the federal level.
- We Have the Capabilities to Efficiently Represent Claimants Nationwide – With a nationwide network of trial lawyers, we have the capabilities required to handle your Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit regardless of where you live.
FAQs: Filing a Lawsuit Related to the Contaminated Drinking Water at Camp Lejeune
How Do I File a Claim Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
Individuals seeking compensation under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act must first submit their claims to the appropriate federal administrative agency. This is required under Section 2(g) of the law, which states, “An individual may not bring an action under this section before complying with section 2675 of title 28, United States Code.” If this administrative claim does not result in an award of compensation, the claimant must then file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
How Much Can I Recover Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
Compensation awards under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Claimants will need to work with their lawyers to determine how much to seek and what evidence they need to support their calculation of damages.
Can I Obtain Punitive Damages Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?
Only compensatory damages are available under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Section 2(f) specifically states that, “[p]unitive damages may not be awarded.”
Doesn't the Federal Government Have Sovereign Immunity?
While the federal government generally has sovereign immunity, it can waive this immunity by statute. The government has waived immunity for Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits in Section 2(e) of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
Can I File a Claim Under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act if I Have Already Received Benefits for My Exposure-Related Health Condition?
Yes, you can file a claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act if you have already received benefits. However, the amount of your award (if any) will be offset by the amount you previously received.
Does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Only Apply to People Who Have Been Diagnosed with Cancer?
No, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act does not apply only to people who have been diagnosed with cancer. The law covers all forms of “harm” caused by exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with any medical condition that you believe may be related to contaminated drinking water exposure, you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights.
How Much Does an Attorney Cost for a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit?
Our firm is representing claimants under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act on a contingency-fee basis. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, contingency fees for Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits are capped at 20% to 25% of the amount recovered in most cases.
Talk to a Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyer for Free
If you would like to speak with a lawyer about filing a Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuit, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To schedule your free initial consultation as soon as possible, call 888-680-1745 or tell us how we can reach you online now.