In a major mass litigation, 14,000 claims have been filed after the Camp Lejeune Justice Act was passed into law this past August.
The new law allows Marines and their families to sue the U.S. government for harm traced to exposure to contaminated water while stationed at the Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987.
Available only to individuals exposed to the water for a minimum of 30 days, the U.S. government has acknowledged that as many as a million people can take action.
As revealed by a CBS News investigation, exposure to toxic chemicals in Camp Lejeune’s drinking water, where some areas registered 400 times above safety standards, has been linked to a range of toxic exposure illnesses. Claimants have cited stillbirths and “rare childhood cancers” among those illnesses.
The investigation has brought public awareness and empathy for those impacted and, critically, spurred action from Congress. It also affirmed the struggles of long-suffering veterans who described frustration at having their disability claims repeatably rejected. CBS News’ review of V.A. records revealed that “subject matter experts” employed to assess the claims were only general medical doctors who did not have expertise in the relevant fields and related illnesses. As many as one-third of recent disability claims from veterans of Camp Lejeune were found to have been “mishandled or wrongly denied” as a result.
CBS News spotlighted Bruno Teixeira, who was 19 years old when he worked at the base’s mess hall for three months in 1986, and who described working directly with the contaminated water for eight to nine hours daily. He said that during that time, no one informed him or others stationed there of chemical exposure, though he recalls the water’s “strange taste and smell.”
Despite not being a smoker or a drinker, Texeira fell victim to a major stroke in 2015 that his doctor attributed to the toxic water. The Department of Veterans Affairs denied his disability claim due to it not finding he had “maximum exposure.” According to Texeira, he has never spoken to, or been physically examined by, the official who reviewed his medical files.
The new legislation marks a major change for veterans and their families not only because they can sue the U.S. government and get accountability from both the Navy and Marine Corps but also because it expands V.A. coverage for those toxic exposure illnesses.
According to a Navy spokesperson, claimants now have a right to file suit if the Navy takes longer than six months from receipt “to adjudicate a properly filed claim.” If a claimant decides to wait on the Navy’s final adjudication of the claim and the claim is denied, the claimant has “six months from the date of the mailing of the denial letter to file suit in the Federal District Court.”
At this time, the Navy has not disclosed or publicly commented on the scale of potential payments.
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries, illness, or other adverse health outcomes associated with a prolonged stay at Camp Lejeune between the years 1953 and 1987, your family may be owed significant compensation. Find the legal expertise and support you deserve with our compassionate attorneys at TruLaw. We are ready to learn about your case and help you make informed decisions. Contact us today or try our Instant Case Evaluation ℠.