In August, President Biden signed into law the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 as part of the broader Honoring Our PACT Act.
The PACT Act includes nearly $300 billion in new financial benefits for veterans suffering from illnesses caused by military toxic exposure events, from burn pit smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan to the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
This important legislation also provides legal recourse for victims of water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
More than two million people, including veterans, their family members, and civilian workers, have been impacted by contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The contamination occurred between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987. It affected the water residents and workers on the base used for drinking, bathing, cooking, and other purposes.
What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 is a bill that allows military families to seek compensation for their injuries and losses due to water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Camp Lejeune’s water contained several known carcinogens at almost 300 times the standard safety limits. The following chemical contaminants have been found in Camp Lejeune’s water supply:
- Benzene, a liquid chemical used to make other materials, including plastics, resins, nylon, and synthetic fibers.
- Trichloroethylene (TCE), a solvent used for cleaning metal parts; it’s also found in some consumer products, such as paint and spot removers, glues, and wood cleaners.
- Tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a chemical used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing.
- Vinyl chloride, in this case resulting from the breakdown of TCE and PCE, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Exposure to these colorless chemicals has been linked to a variety of health problems, including kidney cancer, cardiac defects, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bladder cancer, liver cancer, and others.
A Decades-Long Fight for Justice
Activists and advocates for Camp Lejeune victims allege that the Marine Corps knowingly allowed marines and civilians to be exposed to toxic chemicals at Camp Lejeune, even though exposure to these substances was in direct violation of the Department of the Navy’s established water supply standards.
They also allege that the Marine Corps blocked attempts to uncover the truth, even after news broke about the contamination in 1987.
Yet victims and their advocates have tirelessly worked to expose the truth, ultimately culminating in the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.
One such victim is retired Master Sgt. J.M. Ensminger, who recently told the Marine Corps Times about the death of his daughter, Janey.
Janey was conceived at Camp Lejeune. Her mother unknowingly consumed contaminated water at the base while she was pregnant.
Janey died of leukemia at age 9. She was the only one of the couple’s children to be born on the base, and the family has no history of cancer, Sgt. Ensminger told the Marine Corps Times.
Sgt. Ensminger links Janey’s death to the contaminated water. Yet, he says, his daughter’s death has never been acknowledged by the military or the U.S. government.
With the passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, Sgt. Ensminger hopes his family may finally get justice.
Why Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Significant?
The U.S. government is usually immune from injury claims filed by military personnel.
This is because of something called the Feres Doctrine, which says that individuals who are injured during their military service cannot sue the federal government. It’s based on the United States Supreme Court decision in the 1950 case, Feres v. United States.
With the passage of the Camp Lejeune Act of 2022, the Feres Doctrine will be put aside for certain Camp Lejeune claims. This means more victims will be able to seek and receive justice.
But it’s important to know that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act does not entitle anyone to automatic recovery. Victims must still establish a connection between their illness/injuries (or those of their deceased loved one) and the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
In most cases, this will mean getting an expert medical witness involved.
If you were affected by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, you can file a claim on your own. But hiring a legal representative will likely improve your chances of a favorable outcome. At a minimum, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you learn about your rights and options.
Who Can Sue?
Military veterans and others who were exposed to Camp Lejeune drinking water for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987, can file a claim against the United States government for damage caused by exposure to the base’s contaminated water.
Those impacted by Camp Lejeune water contamination will have two years from the statute’s date of enactment to file a claim.
Even those who have received health care benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) can file a claim for their injuries, emotional harm, loss of quality of life, and any other applicable damages.
Get Justice for You and Your Loved Ones
If you lived, served, or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and can establish a connection between your injuries and the site’s water contamination, you may be eligible for compensation.
Don’t wait. Time is limited to file a claim.
Our experienced personal injury attorneys will help you determine whether you have a case. There is no cost to speak with us.
The law firm of Saunders & Walker P.A. has years of experience with toxic exposure cases, including contaminated groundwater cases. We have the skills and experience to get you and your family justice.
Call us for a free consultation. Our fees are a percentage of recovery, which means we only charge a fee if you receive compensation.
Time is limited to take legal action. Don’t wait, call us at (727) 579-4500 for a free case evaluation today.