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Officially Law! Understanding the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 [Updated Jan. 2023]

Author
Alicia Betz
December 4, 2022

Did you know that if you were injured while serving in the Camp Lejeune Navy Base, you are now able to sue the government? Hopefully, if you are an active duty service member or a veteran, you already knew that. Many civilians, however, are unaware of this. 

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If you believe your medical condition was caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination, you may be entitled to compensation.

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Service members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s know this all too well. Both service members and civilians who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from August 1, 1953, to December 31, 1987, were exposed to toxic chemicals in their water. These chemicals caused a variety of negative health effects in many people.

What Happened at Camp Lejeune? 

From 1953 to 1987, water at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), namely trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE). The contaminants got into the water supply via a dry cleaner off base as well as leaks and spills on base.

“Now that the bill has been signed into law, people who were exposed to chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune will have two years to bring lawsuits against the government.”

These chemicals contaminated two of the main water treatment plants on base. People who lived or worked on base did not know that they were drinking, cooking with, and bathing in dangerously contaminated water.

There is a long list of potential health effects caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune; the entire list can be viewed here, on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s page dedicated to Camp Lejeune. Some of the conditions include adult leukemia, kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, bladder cancer, cardiac defects, and liver cancer.

Some people who were affected by the water didn’t realize their illnesses were related to the contaminated water until the government officially recognized that certain diseases may have been caused by contaminants in the water. 

What is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022? 

Because veterans are not allowed to sue the government for their injuries, nobody has been able to get justice for the harm that was done to them after drinking contaminated water. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 seeks to change that.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is part of the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, which is designed to help veterans have access to benefits that they did not have access to previously. The Camp Lejeune Act, specifically, was created “to establish a cause of action for those harmed by exposure to water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and for other purposes.”

Testing the water at camp lejeune

The bill was proposed with the purpose of allowing those who were affected by the water contamination to seek justice for their injuries. It was widely supported by both parties. In addition to allowing veterans to sue the government, it also overrides North Carolina’s statute of repose. This statute only allows people to take action for six years after an event has occurred. Because the water was last contaminated in 1987, nobody has been able to take action, whether veteran or not.

The bill considers affected people to be those who lived, worked, or were exposed to the water for at least 30 days from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987. This includes service members, their families, workers, visitors, and even people who were in utero during that time period. It also applies to loved ones of those who have died as a result of their illness or injury.

People affected by the water contamination will be able to bring action against the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. It’s designed for people to “obtain appropriate relief for harm that was caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.”

In order to prove harm and get justice for your injuries, those affected must provide sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between the water and the harm done to them. The evidence must be at least strong enough to show that the water more than likely caused harm. 

Did the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 Pass Into Law? 

Yes! On August 3rd, 2022 the US Senate passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which had previously been proposed as a bill, and on August 8th the President of the US signed it into law. The bill had headed to the President's desk as part of the Honoring Our PACT Act.

“The evidence must be at least strong enough to show that the water more than likely caused harm.”

So The CLJA (Camp Lejeune Justice Act) of 2022 Is Officially Law. Now What?

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (The CLJ Act) was created as part of the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Both acts were designed to allow veterans to seek justice for injuries due to toxic substances and to receive VA healthcare benefits.

Typically, the government doesn’t allow veterans to sue them for injuries that happened while they were serving, but the passage of the CLJ Act changed this for thousands of veterans who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune. 

In August 2022, the CLJ Act was signed into law by the President. If you are eligible, this means you can now sue the government for illnesses and injuries you suffered as a result of the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. 

Keep reading to learn if you are eligible, what you can do next, and how you can sign up for a case. 

Who is Eligible for a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit?

If you don’t know what the CLJ Act is all about, you can learn more here. In a nutshell, service members, as well as civilian families and workers, were exposed to toxic chemicals in their drinking water at Camp Lejeune from the 1950s to the 1980s. 

These toxic chemicals caused a variety of illnesses in people, including cancers and Parkinson’s disease. Now that the CLJ act is law, these people are eligible to sue the government for illnesses and injuries they have sustained as a result of being exposed to the water. 

To be eligible to file a lawsuit, you must have lived or worked at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina for at least 30 days from August 1, 1953 to December 31, 1987. Eligible people include service members, families who lived on base, civilian workers, base visitors, and people who were in utero during that time. This also applies to loved ones of those who have died as a result of using contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Loved ones can file a lawsuit on their behalf. 

How will Camp Lejeune Lawsuits Work? 

As people begin to file lawsuits, a clearer picture will emerge of how the cases will be handled. Those who are eligible will likely be successful in filing their lawsuits. Because the government is deciding to allow people to file lawsuits, it would be counterintuitive for them to be uncooperative. It’s also highly likely that there will be a mass payout, avoiding the need for thousands of individual trials. 

All CLJ Act lawsuits will be filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Before you can file your lawsuit, you’ll need to submit your claim to The Department of the Navy. The Navy will then have six months to accept or deny your claim. From there, you may be offered a settlement, or you may move on to file your claim in federal court. 

Because there will be so many people filing claims, there is a good possibility that the government will offer settlements within those six months, negating the need to move on to court. 

This six-month window is important to note, however, because it effectively shortens the two-year period you have to file a lawsuit. If your claim is waiting for review by The Department of the Navy when the two years elapse, you may be out of luck. 

What Are The Symptoms of Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune?

The volatile organic compounds that contaminated the water of Camp Lejeune can stay in the body for years, creating a wide variety of health complications. In order to recognize whether you are suffering from a health condition caused by the contaminated water of Camp Lejeune, you will need to identify the symptoms of those conditions.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the list of health complications caused by the contamination of the water of Camp Lejeune includes:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

These health conditions have a set of symptoms that can manifest in individuals years or even decades after the initial exposure to contaminated water. The most common symptoms across all of these conditions include fatigue, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, and weakness. Additionally, each of the conditions has specific symptoms that distinguish them from others. 

Adult leukemia has the unique symptoms of easy bruising, bleeding, and frequent infections. Myelodysplastic syndromes present with symptoms of pale skin, low blood platelet count, red points on the skin, and low white blood cell counts.

Bladder cancer and kidney cancer have similar symptoms due to the interconnected nature of the organ systems they affect. Both conditions have a common symptom of blood in the urine. Kidney cancer will also present with pain in the back or side and fever. Bladder cancer presents initially with frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, feelings of having a full bladder, and trouble urinating. As bladder cancer progresses, more symptoms may appear including lower back pain, swelling in the feet, or bone pain.

Liver cancer presents with feelings of being overly full even after small meals, nausea, vomiting, enlarged liver, enlarged spleen, pain in the abdomen, swelling under the ribs, pain near the right shoulder blade, swelling or fluid buildup in the abdomen, yellowing of the skin and eyes. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma also presents with swollen abdomen and feeling overly full in addition to enlarged lymph nodes, chest pain, severe infection, chills, and easy bruising.

Finally Parkinson’s disease presents with a shift in behavioral and neurological function. Some of these neurological shifts include balance problems, impaired posture, loss of automatic movements, rigid muscles, slowed movement, speech changes, tremors, and writing pattern shifts.

How Much Will People Be Awarded for Camp Lejeune Lawsuits? 

It’s difficult to say how much money people will be awarded for water contamination lawsuits at Camp Lejeune because this is an unprecedented case. Service members and veterans are not typically allowed to sue the government for injuries they sustain while serving in the armed forces. However, lawsuits involving similar injuries, such as cancer, often pay up to $350,000. It will be difficult to get a solid estimate on settlement amounts until cases begin to be settled. 

What To Do if You Were Affected by Water at Camp Lejeune 

Now is the time to act if you were harmed by drinking or using contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Remember, you can also file a lawsuit on behalf of a loved one who passed away due to their illness or injury. 

Because you only have two years to file a lawsuit and you first need to submit your claim to the Department of the Navy, it’s important to be proactive in gathering your information and filing your case. We can help connect you with a lawyer who will evaluate your case and help you file a lawsuit. Don’t wait around to see what types of payouts other people receive.

Note that according to reports, Republican Lawmakers are trying to pass laws that will cap fees for attorneys that handle Camp Lejeune cases. So far, they have not had much luck, but they will continue to push for further legislation.

"Now is the time to act if you were harmed by drinking or using contaminated water at Camp Lejeune."

Does the Feres Doctrine apply to Camp Lejeune?

The Feres doctrine prevents injured members of the armed force from suing the federal government as per the Federal Tort Claims Act. In terms of it applies to this case, it's a grey area.

The Supreme Court recently declined a case brought by a military widow who claimed that her husbands death was caused by contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. But lower courts ruled that the Feres Doctrine protects the US Government from exactly these cases. The CLJA seems to override the Feres Doctrine. We will see how cases like these continue to pan out.

We Can Help You File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

If you suffered harm from exposure to water at Camp Lejeune, we can help you file a lawsuit as soon as the bill becomes law. We know that many people have waited decades to receive justice and compensation for their injuries, and we can finally help make that a reality. 

Because no lawsuits have been filed yet, it’s not clear how much compensation people may be entitled to. Lawsuits against the United States government like this that are en masse and date back decades are unprecedented. Because you only have two years to file, however, don’t wait to see how other cases go before filing your own lawsuit. 

If you are a veteran who was harmed by Camp Lejeune water, you may already have access to VA disability benefits. However, that is not enough to compensate for the harm that was done. Thankfully, the need for justice and compensation is finally being recognized with this act. 

To find out if you are eligible to file a Camp Lejeune lawsuit, get started with a free case evaluation today. We can match you with a lawyer who can help move your case forward as soon as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is signed into law.

How to Sign Up for a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

Lawyer Consulting with Client

Now that the act has become law, eligible people can sign up for a Camp Lejeune lawsuit. It’s important to note that you should begin talking to a lawyer and building your case now because you only have until August 8, 2024 to file a lawsuit. This is exactly two years after the bill was signed into law. Thousands have already joined the case.

To talk more about your specific case and get help filing a lawsuit, contact a Camp Lejeune lawyer. They can help you determine if you have a solid case. A lawyer can also help you gather your case quickly so you can be sure to meet the deadline of August 8, 2024. 

Free Case Evaluation

If you believe your medical condition was caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination, you may be entitled to compensation.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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