On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act into law. This landmark legislation mandates that all cases must be initiated within 2 years from the date the law was signed. This deadline is August 9, 2024 – less than a year away.
Approximately 100,000 administrative claims have already been filed. Should the Navy deny a claim or take no action within 6 months, claimants have the option to file a lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The judges overseeing the litigation in North Carolina have entered a case management order, indicating that cases are steadily progressing towards trial.
Introduction of the Elective Option
The government has introduced an “Elective Option” for expedited settlement of select claims. While this reflects a commitment to resolving claims, it’s essential to be aware that claimants considering this route may face procedural challenges, stringent criteria, and potentially inadequate compensation. Engaging in further litigation is anticipated to encourage the government to expand claimant criteria and enhance rewards.
Who Qualifies for a Claim
For those who lived or worked at the Camp Lejeune base for 30 days or longer between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, there is an opportunity for compensation. This includes:
- Service members
- Family members of service members, including in-utero
- Base camp employees
The origin of this case lies in the toxic water contamination at Camp Lejeune, a U.S. Marine Corps Base in North Carolina. Government officials were aware of the contamination for decades but failed to address the issue adequately. Between August 1953 and December 1987, service members, their families, and base employees consumed and bathed in water that contained hazardous chemicals.
As a result, many individuals have experienced severe health issues stemming from this exposure. Legal action against the U.S. government began in 2005, with veterans and their families suing for harm caused by the contaminated drinking water. In 2016, these claims were dismissed based on the doctrine of law that prevents member of the armed forces who are injured while on active duty from making a claim against the federal government. The time period to sue had also arguably expired as well.
In 2021, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act emerged as a beacon of hope, designed to rectify this injustice. This act ensures that any individual who was stationed, resided, or worked at the base for 30 days or longer between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, can pursue rightful compensation for injuries or illnesses resulting from the contaminated water. Furthermore, it creates a new avenue of recovery for non-veterans who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune.
For more information or assistance in navigating this complex legal landscape, please do not hesitate to contact Caesar, Napoli & Spivak.
Caesar, Napoli & Spivak stand ready to provide guidance, support, and expertise.