For more than thirty years, the water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC was poisoning base personnel and their families and contractors. While the water contamination was discovered in the 1980s, it would take almost three decades for the U.S. Government to acknowledge the extent of the damage that had been done to potentially hundreds of thousands of U.S. Marines and their families.
This article will focus on the history and process of lawsuit filings against the U.S. Government and Veterans Administration for damages caused by the water at Camp Lejeune–we’ll also touch on the current state of affairs related to Camp Lejeune water lawsuits.
Why Did It Take Almost Thirty Years?
One of the largest factors contributing to the Camp Lejeune water contamination and the illnesses suffered by its staff was the high levels of benzene in the groundwater. These levels were known to the government as early as the mid-80s, but were ignored.
As late as 1997, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was still claiming that cancerous effects from exposure to the ground and well water at Camp Lejeune was unlikely to cause cancerous effects, even though they knew about the 800,000 gallons of benzene that had leaked into the groundwater that supplied the base’s wells. After immense pressure from the public and veterans advocacy groups, in 2009, ATSDR withdrew their 1997 report and admitted the presence of benzene in the water supply.
Early Lawsuits Denied
Impartiality in our justice system is designed to make sure that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Sadly, this impartiality sometimes means that a guilty man goes free on a technicality, or a man who was justified in his actions ends up getting charged with a crime.
Early Camp Lejeune lawsuits were often denied on the grounds of exceeding the statute of limitations. Under North Carolina law, you only have a ten year period in which to file civil suits for damages—after that, the statute of limitations has expired and you are legally unable to file a claim, regardless if the claim is valid or not.
Efforts were further hampered by what is known as the Feres Doctrine, which is related to a 1950 Supreme Court decision that effectively barred military members from filing lawsuits against the government for injuries related to active duty service. In effect, this ruling says that while the government has an obligation to care for your wounds, you can’t sue them for additional damages.
Congressional Action Breathes New Life Into the Cases
Legislation like the Janey Ensminger Act, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, and the pending Camp Lejeune Justice Act has made it easier for families to seek care and recover damages against the government.
If you or a loved one was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for more than thirty consecutive days and have gone on to develop any serious health complications, you may have a valid claim for compensation. While Camp Lejeune water contamination settlement amounts vary, they are typically significant.
In order to have the best possible chances of receiving the maximum amount of compensation, it is critical that you have a qualified attorney–such as those at Strom Law–that is familiar with the specifics of the Camp Lejeune case. We will be by your side every step of the way to make sure that you receive the justice that you deserve.