As of February 2023, there is no Camp Lejeune water contamination settlement. There probably won’t be one until at least August 10, 2024, which is the claims deadline under the 2022 Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which was part of the sweeping PACT (Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics) Act. This law significantly changed eligibility for VA benefits for people with service-related toxic exposure illnesses. But that’s the subject of another blog.
The Camp Lejeune water contamination claim, like most other civil claims, will most likely settle out of court. Based on the 3M defective earplug settlement, another large case that involved hundreds of thousands of victims who suffered long-term hearing damage, the Camp Lejeune settlement will most likely be in the billions of dollars.
Between the early 1950s and the late 1980s, the drinking water at this North Carolina military base was laced with large amounts of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), mostly industrial solvents like perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE).
Marine commanders closed the tainted wells by 1989. But they refused to do anything or even acknowledge the problem until 1980. The newly-created Environmental Protection Agency mandated VOC water quality tests. These tests indicated that high levels of toxic chemicals were in the water, Still, the USMC denied the problem and refused to act.
More evidence surfaced. Investigators traced much of the contamination to leaking fuel dumps and radioactive waste dumps at the base.
Finally, in 1999, the Marines notified former residents that they “might” have drunk poisoned water when they lived at Camp Lejeune. Over 135,000 people added their names to an online registry, These names may just be the tip of the iceberg. Many observers think that over a million service members and their families may be eligible for compensation.
Beginning in 2009, victims started filing lawsuits. Judges initially dismissed these legal actions on technical grounds. So, lawmakers passed the aforementioned legislation to bypass North Carolina’s statute of repose.
Basically, a statute of repose bars defective product lawsuits after a certain number of years, which in this case is ten years, even if the victims didn’t know they were sick.
Most likely, all the new lawsuits will be consolidated in a North Carolina federal court, which is where most victims are filing legal actions. During these pretrial consolidations, a single judge oversees discovery, which is an information exchange process, rules on pretrial motions, and supervises mediation.
Defendants like the USMC hate pretrial consolidation. They know this arrangement makes it easier for victims to negotiate a huge settlement, which is exactly what the defendant wants to avoid.
As the claims deadline approaches, settlement negotiations will probably start heating up. So, stay tuned to this station for further details.
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