A Camp Lejeune lawsuit is a claim against the United States government for causing cancer and other illnesses in people exposed to the contaminated drinking water at the North Carolina Marine base and training facility.
To qualify for a lawsuit, you must have had 30 days or more of residence, work, or exposure to Camp Lejeune water between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. (This exposure could have been while you were in-utero.) And you must have developed one of the following diseases or health conditions:
- Aplastic Anemia
- Birth defects
- Cancer (any kind)
- Cardiac defects
- Childhood leukemia
- End-Stage renal disease
- Female Infertility
- Fetal death
- Hepatic steatosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity (Nephrotoxicity)
You could have been a military service member, family member of military personnel, contractor, civilian, or anybody else who served, worked, lived, or was otherwise exposed at the Camp Lejeune military base.
In this article, our Camp Lejeune lawsuit attorneys discuss:
- 1. Does Camp Lejeune drinking water make you sick?
- 2. What is the status of the Camp Lejeune lawsuits?
- 3. Can families sue on behalf of deceased victims?
- 4. How much money can I win?
- 5. Can I still sue if I get VA benefits or disability?
- 6. How did Camp Lejeune water get contaminated?
- 7. What should I do if my family or I got sick from Camp Lejeune?
1. Does Camp Lejeune drinking water make you sick?
From 1953 to 1987, the drinking water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was contaminated with the following carcinogens:
- Trichloroethylene (TCE),
- Perchloroethylene (PCE),
- Benzene, and
- Vinyl chloride
TCE and PCE are both considered VOCs, short for volatile organic compounds. These toxic chemicals can cause people exposed to them to develop cancer and/or other serious illnesses. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one million active duty service members, their family members, and civilians living close by may have been exposed to Camp Lejeune’s unsafe water.1
The Lake Lejeune carcinogens could have caused any type of cancer, including (but not limited to):
- Adult leukemia
- Appendix cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Brain cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Intestinal cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Ovarian cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Soft tissue cancer
- Spinal cancer
- Thyroid cancer
And just some of the major fetal malformations the Lake Lejeune carcinogens could have caused are choanal atresia, eye defects, low birth weight, neural tube defects, and oral cleft defects.
2. What is the status of the Camp Lejeune lawsuits?
The litigation seeking justice for Camp Lejeune victims is very new.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022 – allowing military families injured by the base’s water to pursue financial compensation from the federal government – is expected to be signed into law soon. The CLJA (part of the Honoring Our Pact Act, a.k.a. “PACT Act“) will permit Camp Lejeune victims to file suit within the next two years.
The thousands of expected lawsuits will probably get consolidated into a federal multi-district litigation (MDL) this year or next year as a way to streamline the settlement process. (MDLs are different from class actions because all the plaintiffs’ cases remain separate.)
Note that there had been a previous Camp Lejeune MDL with 850 plaintiffs out of the Eastern District of North Carolina. But this MDL was dismissed in 2016 because of North Carolina’s 10-year statute of repose, which barred victims from filing suit at all. This dismissal is what spurred lawmakers to create the CLJA.2
3. Can families sue on behalf of deceased victims?
In many cases, yes. If your family member died from cancer or another disease after being exposed to Camp Lejeune’s toxic water, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
4. How much money can I win?
Camp Lejeune lawsuit plaintiffs are fighting for the following damages:
- Past and future medical expenses associated with the illness/injury (including home health care);
- Past and future lost wages from being too sick to have a job;
- Past and future pain and suffering; and
- Possibly punitive damages.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys expect the final settlement in Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits to far exceed what victims might have received through workers’ compensation disability benefits. This is because workers’ comp disability compensation has caps.
5. Can I still sue if I get VA benefits or disability?
Yes. You are still eligible for a Camp Lejeune contaminated water lawsuit and lump-sum settlement even if you have received – or are currently receiving – disability or other VA benefits. And winning a Camp Lejeune lawsuit will not jeopardize your eligibility to collect disability or other VA benefits in the future.
6. How did Camp Lejeune water get contaminated?
According to the CDC, Camp Lejeune’s water supply was contaminated by:
- a dry-cleaning company (ABC One-Hour Cleaners) located off-base;
- underground storage tanks; and
- industrial spills off-base.3
The U.S. military had used TCE – which is a colorless and odorless liquid – as a cleaning solvent. From 1953 to 1987, Camp Lejeune’s Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant had TCE levels of up to 1,400 parts per billion (ppb). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), drinking water should have no more than 5 ppb of TCE.
Meanwhile, ABC One-Hour Cleaners used PCE (a.k.a. tetrachloroethylene) – which is a colorless liquid with a slight odor – as a commercial fabric solvent. From 1953 to 1987, Camp Lejeune’s Tarawa Terrace Treatment Plant had PCE levels of up to 215 ppb. According to the EPA, drinking water should have no more than 5 ppb of PCE.
6.1. How long did the military know about the contamination?
In 1981, the U.S. Army Environmental Hygiene Agency told the Marine Corps that the Camp Lejeune water was contaminated. A year later, Grainger Laboratories confirmed the contamination and sent multiple warnings to the Marine Corp.
But in 1983, the Marine Corps lied to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) about there being no contamination and even scaled back on the testing Grainger was doing.
It was not until 1984 – when a new laboratory confirmed the contamination – that the Marine Corps. began to close its toxic water wells while still withholding information from North Carolina officials. And in 1992 when the Marine Corps admitted in a report to there having been TCE and PCE contamination, it still withheld information about the benzene contamination.
A formal investigation in 2005 by the EPA and Department of Justice (DOJ) led to EPA officials wanting to bring obstruction of justice charges against certain Camp Lejeune officials. But the DOJ blocked any criminal prosecution.4
7. What should I do if my family or I got sick from Camp Lejeune?
Contact our Camp Lejeune lawsuit attorneys to discuss your legal options. We understand no price tag can be put on health, but money is the only meaningful way the U.S. government can apologize for causing your medical conditions. We promise to fight for maximum financial compensation for the suffering you and your family unjustifiably endured.
If you or a loved one has been injured by Camp Lejeune, call our mass tort/personal injury law firm today for a case evaluation. We can obtain your medical records on your behalf.
- Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Contaminated Water Supplies at Camp Lejeune: Assessing Potential Health Effects, National Research Council (2009). Maggie Fox, Contamination at NC Marine base lasted up to 60 years, NBC News (March 14, 2013). Birth Defects and Childhood Cancers Study, ATSDR (“During the first trimester of pregnancy, the risk of a NTD [neural tube defect] increased with increasing levels of exposure to TCE.”). Health Studies in Adults, ATSDR. Frank Bove et. al., Evaluation of mortality among marines and navy personnel exposed to contaminated drinking water at USMC base Camp Lejeune: A retrospective cohort study, Journal of Environmental Health (February, 2014)(“The Bove Study”).
- PACT Act (HR 3967). Diane Falzone, Senate Passes Bill Allowing Camp Lejeune Residents to Seek Reparations for Toxic Exposure, Daily Beast (June 16, 2022). Tom Povtak, Veterans Getting Closer to Justice at Camp Lejeune, Asbestos.com (May 19, 2022). See also Feres v. United States, (1950) 340 U.S. 135. See also Pamela MacLean, U.S. court rebuffs Marine Corps families in polluted water case, Reuters (October 15, 2014). Camp Lejeune water contamination health issues, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In re: Camp Lejeune, NC Water Contamination Lit., 1:11-md-2218 (E.D. NC). Leo Shane III, Major veterans toxic exposure legislation delayed again, but lawmakers insist it’s not defeat, New York Post (June 24, 2022).
- See note 1.
- Hearing Before The Subcommittee On Investigations And Oversight – Committee On Science And Technology – House Of Representatives – One Hundred Eleventh Congress – Second Session, govinfo.gov (September 16, 2010). See also Elemental Mercury Detection in Pipes At Hadnot Point Water Treatment Plant, Marines (September 12, 2012)