As many of our Veterans and our clients know, the Camp Lejeune claims are moving forward in the federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 allows anyone who lived, worked, or served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 to assert claims for damages for harm due to exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
The Act further requires that an administrative claim be submitted to the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. The Navy is entitled to consider the claim for a period of no longer than six months before a lawsuit may be filed. The first six months after the passage of the Act recently expired, permitting the first group of lawsuits to be filed.
The Act requires that all lawsuits be filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina where four judges currently preside over all of the Camp Lejeune cases. Managing Partner of the Romano Law Group, John Romano made his appearance in front of the Honorable Judge James C. Dever, III. Judge Dever recently held the first Status Hearing to occur in the cases. The Court expressed a desire for the parties to work together and create a plan to move all of the cases, including those in front of other judges, to a resolution.
How are the cases being handled?
It is important to remember that these cases are not considered a class action lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is brought on behalf of a group of individuals who have suffered common injuries as a result of the defendant’s conduct. In those cases, only one plaintiff acts as a representative for all of the others. That is not the case here. Each case filed under the Act is currently being filed individually, with one plaintiff, for all diseases and injuries experienced by that one person. Each of our clients’ cases are individuals and, as such, need individual evidence for their cases.
What evidence is going to be necessary?
“To meet the burden of proof, a party shall produce evidence showing that the relationship between exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune and the harm is –
(A) Sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship exists; or
(B) Sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship is at least as likely as not.”
Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.
To meet this burden, those making claims should collect as many documents as possible. That may include a DD-214, medical records, birth certificates, death certificates, letters that are addressed to their residence on base, journal entries, and other miscellaneous items that indicate their time spent at Camp Lejeune.
Do I need to open an Estate?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 encompasses over 30 years of wrongdoing. Because it spans back to the 1950s, it is very likely that many people affected by the contamination are no longer with us. An estate provides the opportunity for a party to act on the deceased’s behalf and will likely be needed if there is recovery, if not sooner. However, the government agencies reviewing claims, nor the Court, have not advised that it is necessary to open an estate to make an initial claim. If that occurs, contacting your Counsel will provide the most up-to-date, accurate way to ensure that your claim is in compliance and maintains its viability.
What injuries are attributable to water contamination at Camp Lejeune?
The injuries covered by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 have not been limited by the Act nor by the parties involved. The Act and subsequent lawsuits under the Act should not be confused with the analysis performed by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for treatment and disability compensation of “presumptive conditions.” The presumptive conditions were a finite list of diagnoses that the VA determined to be related to military service and were automatically presumed to have caused those specific diagnoses.
In the litigation for Camp Lejeune, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ presumptive conditions have not been adopted. It cannot be assumed that this will happen in the future. Therefore, you should discuss any injuries that you have experienced after your time at Camp Lejeune that could be attributable to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune, whether or not they have been treated or considered by the VA in the past.
What will the future bring?
The future is unknown as this is unprecedented litigation. However, Judge Dever and his fellow Judges of the Eastern District of North Carolina have agreed to allow the United States Department of Justice an extension of time to file the defense response to the Plaintiffs’ complaints. Additionally, the Court has asked Plaintiff’s attorney to work together to come up with a trial process and work with the U.S. DOJ to bring cases to a resolution.
If you resided, worked, were stationed, or were otherwise exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune for no less than 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, and suffered from an injury, disease or diagnosis of a medical condition thereafter, do not wait to contact an attorney today! Your claim must be filed within the required time period which is approaching! The Attorneys at Romano Law Group are at the forefront of this litigation and are here to help you get the recovery you deserve.
Authored by Marjorie H. Levine, Esq.