In June 2023, Reuters reported that the U.S. Department of Justice had advised federal judges to administer the mass litigation about the contaminated water at Marine Corps Base. The objective here was to expedite the plan for managing the lawsuits that are increasing.
The government lawyers defending the claims over toxic drinking water in North Carolina say a plan is essential for managing the cases. The lawsuits for Camp Lejeune are anticipated to get counted as the biggest mass litigations in history. Approximately 1,000 contamination lawsuits have been filed to date in North Carolina’s Eastern District.
Moreover, the Honoring Our PACT Act was signed by Joe Biden in August 2022. This historic bill encompassed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (also called the CLJA), having immense significance for the numerous individuals who suffered from water contamination at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987.
The contamination levels were reported to be as much as 280 times beyond the permissible limits, making the CLJA a crucial step toward seeking justice for the affected victims. The drinking water got tainted with vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, benzene, and tetrachloroethylene.
Usually, such a toxic exposure can either result in a mass tort litigation or a class action suit. However, here it will be the former. There is a chance that the legislation might shift the mass tort claims and the way they are litigated for several years to come.
How The Act Might Change Mass Tort Litigation?
The government depended on multiple defenses during the Prior Lejeune Litigation, which comprised the statute of limitations, statute of repose, Feres doctrine, and governmental immunity. The CLJA removes all these barriers.
First, the CLJA creates a separate statute of limitation, irrespective of any state laws, to offer the victims a fair scope for seeking relief. It also addresses the problem of the North Carolina statute of repose, which earlier obstructed several victims from opting in for legal remedies because of time constraints.
Secondly, the government surrenders sovereign immunity, thereby enabling the victims to sue the government for negligent acts, even the ones linked with discretionary functions which got secured before.
Thirdly, the act addresses the Feres doctrine, thereby enabling a cause of action for all, which includes the civilian employees and veterans who were harmed by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Furthermore, the CLJA also designated the Eastern District of Carolina as an exclusive jurisdiction for every case, thereby streamlining the process as well as promoting effective resolution. The act also embraces a balanced standard for the burden of proof. Here, the veterans should provide a plausible link between the contaminated waters of Camp Lejeune and the ailments that they suffered from.
Sufficient time has passed since the water contamination took place. However, the CLJA still provides justice to the ones who got affected by the Camp Lejeune events. Hence, the act comes up with vital legislative advancements that have the potential to reshape mass tort litigation and enhance security for people who got adversely impacted by the actions of the government.
Knowing Your Legal Options
In July 2023, another news report in Reuters stated that the judges supervising the litigation of the Camp Lejeune contaminated waters have named lawyers from Bell Legal Group, Keller Postman, Lieff Cabraser, and four more law firms to a team of 7 leaders for the plaintiffs.
These 7 lawyers are accountable for managing settlement talks, selecting the cases for the bellwether trials, and also speak with the public at large about the cases. Court Clerk Peter Moore Jr says that the cases are 1,100 till now.
Hence, the veterans and others who have suffered from the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune can expect justice and hope to recover their damages. Typically, people who get affected by the polluted water develop ailments like lung cancer, cervical cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, and many others. While it is necessary to get medical assistance, it’s also crucial to keep the medical evidence ready to file a legal complaint.
TorHoerman Law states that before filing a legal complaint for getting exposed to the harmful chemicals of Camp Lejeune, individuals should have every piece of evidence handy. When working with a lawyer, it is necessary to sign a HIPAA release form or any other equivalent documentation which will release the medical records to the legal team to use as proof for the lawsuit claim. The settlement amount can vary based on the individual suffering and the case as a whole.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) emerges as a transformative piece of legislation that holds the potential to revolutionize mass tort litigation in the United States. By removing old barriers and remedying the vital issues in the Prior Lejeune litigation, the CLJA throws light on new lanes to justice for the thousands of victims poisoned by contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
In its pursuit of justice, the CLJA might mark the start of a new era, wherein the rights and protections of individuals harmed by government actions are strengthened. As we witness its impact unfold, the CLJA stands as a powerful testament to the potential for positive change in mass tort litigation in the United States.