Between 1953 and 1987, two drinking water wells at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were contaminated with dangerous chemicals.
Although the Marine Corps previously knew about the contamination, the wells were not closed off until 1985. By then, the damage had been done. Over a million people — Marines, their families, civilian contractors, and others — had been exposed to toxic chemicals.
Since then, hundreds or even thousands of people have gotten ill due to the contaminated water. Eight conditions are presumed to be causally connected to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune:
- Adult leukemia
- Kidney cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Plastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
There are also other illnesses caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune that might be claimed as well.
In 2013, Congress passed a law providing VA benefits and medical care to service members who suffered illnesses as a result of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. However, that law only applied to service members, not their families or civilians. Even then, service members found that not all their medical expenses were covered.
Meanwhile, North Carolina’s statute of repose kept many people from making claims.
On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed a new law called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. This law allows people who were sickened by the Camp Lejeune water contamination to file claims against the government. The new law covers everyone who got ill or lost a loved one due to the contamination, even those who made claims through the VA.
By creating a federal cause of action, the new law also effectively overruled the past statute of repose issue and provided a new one. People affected by the contamination now have two years (from August 2022) to file a claim.
Who can file a claim?
To file a claim, you must show you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and that you suffered an illness related to the contaminated water. The 30 days need not have been consecutive. In general, a claim will be stronger as the time spent on base increases.
- Marines stationed at Camp Lejeune or assigned there for 30 days or longer
- Service members and vets from other branches who worked at Camp Lejeune
- Families who lived at Camp Lejeune
- Civilians who worked at Camp Lejeune
- Families of people who died from illnesses related to Camp Lejeune water contamination
What losses are covered by the new law?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act authorizes claims for:
- Past, present, and future medical expenses that haven’t already been covered by VA benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
Before filing a lawsuit, you must first file a claim with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The Navy then has six months to evaluate and reject or attempt to settle the claim. After that six-month time period, and assuming the case is not settled, you may file a lawsuit in (and only in) the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. It is not clear what percentage of claims will settle short of litigation, or what typical settlement values will be.
Remember: you only have two years from August, 10, 2022 to file your claim.
You may have questions. Read our FAQ about the Camp Lejeune water contamination or contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.