Saturday, January 27, 2024, Town Hall Event
Doyle APC, in collaboration with Blalock LLC, is hosting a free live town hall event for Southern California veterans and their families to discuss legal claims related to the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The event, featuring keynote speaker Harry Blalock, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and trial attorney with over 40 years of experience, is scheduled for
Saturday, January 27, 2024, with sessions at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott in Carlsbad, CA.
Additional town hall events coming in February and March 2024.
Attendees will learn about their legal rights and options regarding Camp Lejeune claims, have the chance to interact directly with experienced legal professionals handling Camp Lejeune claims, and will include personal stories, legal insights, and a Q&A session. A complimentary lunch will be provided, and no registration is required.
Helping Southern California Veterans and their Families
From 1953 to 1987, the water supply at Marine Base Camp Lejeune was contaminated with toxic chemicals, which posed a severe health risk to service members, their families, civilian workers, and other individuals who lived or worked at the base. Hundreds of thousands of Marines and civilian workers, along with their family members, were exposed to these toxic chemicals during these 34 years. Many individuals and families exposed to these chemicals have moved, retired, or were transferred to other areas of the United States, including Southern California, which is home to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms.
Background and Origins of the Contamination
The Camp Lejeune water contamination is considered one of the biggest environmental disasters in military history. The contamination occurred over three decades, from 1953 to 1987, and exposed hundreds of thousands of people to hazardous chemicals, leading to long-term health consequences.
The government identified three primary sources of contamination. First, a private dry-cleaning company located just off the base contaminated the soil and groundwater with perchloroethylene (PCE), a toxic colorless solvent used in dry cleaning. From 1964 to 1987, the dry cleaner improperly stored and disposed of PCE, which ultimately contaminated a water treatment plant that served the Tarawa Terrace area of Camp Lejeune. The area around the dry cleaning business has been a U.S. Superfund Site since the late 1980s.
The second source of contamination was the Marine Corps’ improper storage of gasoline in underground storage tanks. These underground storage tanks leaked 1,500 gallons of gasoline each month, creating a massive lake of gasoline right on top of the base’s water supply. Gasoline contains several toxic compounds, including benzene, toluene, and lead.
The third primary source of contamination was the Marine Corps’ failure to properly dispose of several chemical solvents used to clean weapons and machinery on the base. These solvents, including trichloroethylene (TCE), likewise found their way into the base’s water system.
These toxic compounds contaminated the water treatment plants at Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point. While other water treatment plants also supplied water to parts of Camp Lejeune, the water supplied to most of the barracks, family housing units, hospitals, and schools were from Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point.
The Types and Extent of Contaminants
Water testing from the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point water treatment plants in 1982 revealed high levels of toxins, including trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride. Analysis of the water testing revealed that levels of these contaminants, particularly PCE and TCE, far exceeded the maximum allowable levels per the Environmental Protection Agency. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) concluded that the concentration of these toxic compounds in the water began to exceed maximum allowable levels as early as 1953 and remained above those levels until the water supply wells were closed in 1985.
Government investigations ultimately revealed that the water at Camp Lejeune had been contaminated for decades, affecting an estimated one million military and civilian personnel and their families. The long-term exposure to these toxic substances raised significant health concerns, leading to investigations and legal actions.
Initial Response and Period of Contamination
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune went undetected for years until it was discovered through scientific and environmental studies. The issue was not fully understood until the contaminated wells were shut down in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The water contamination period lasted from August 1953 to December 1987. An estimated one million Marines, their families, and civilian workers were exposed to the contaminated water without their knowledge.
Acknowledging this timeframe to determine eligibility for health care and legal claims and comprehend the long-term exposure and potential health effects is essential. Various investigations and reports have confirmed this period, highlighting the prolonged nature of the exposure and its potential impact on those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during these decades.
Qualifying Health Conditions Recognized by Veterans Affairs
The qualifying health conditions for Camp Lejeune claims are directly related to the exposure to contaminated water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The contaminants found in the water at Camp Lejeune, particularly volatile organic compounds like trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), have been associated with various long-term health effects. Studies have linked prolonged exposure to the chemicals found at Camp Lejeune to several severe health conditions, including multiple types of cancer (such as kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and leukemia), neurobehavioral effects, and birth disabilities.
The Veterans Affairs (V.A.) has established a presumptive service connection for veterans, reservists, and National Guard members exposed to contaminants in the water supply at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and who subsequently developed specific diseases. The qualifying health conditions include:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
Additionally, other health conditions are associated with the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. These include:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Lung cancer
- Hepatic steatosis
These health conditions are covered under the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, which provides healthcare benefits for veterans and their families affected by the water contamination.
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune primarily impacted veterans, their families who resided on the base, and civilian workers.
The U.S. government has passed two critical pieces of legislation regarding the contamination: the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 and the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012. These laws aim to provide justice and support to those affected by the crisis.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022
On August 10, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Honoring Our PACT Act, which included the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. This landmark legislation addresses the rights of individuals affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. It has several key provisions designed to help those affected by the contamination.
- Eligibility for Legal Action: The Act allows veterans, family members, and civilian workers who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, to file claims for harm caused by the contaminated water.
- Filing Deadline: An essential part of the Act is establishing a deadline for filing claims and lawsuits. The deadline is August 10, 2024.
- Venue for Lawsuits: The Act stipulates that lawsuits can be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina if an administrative process fails to resolve a claim.
- Scope of Compensation: The legislation lets eligible individuals seek compensation for various harms linked to water contamination, including multiple health conditions and increased risk of certain diseases.
The Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012
The Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, signed into law on August 6, 2012, aims to provide healthcare and benefits to those affected by the contamination. The Act has several main provisions, which include:
- Healthcare Benefits: The Act mandates the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide healthcare to veterans and their family members who were potentially exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune during the specified period.
- Coverage of Medical Conditions: The Act covers specific medical conditions linked to the contamination, such as certain types of cancer, neurobehavioral effects, and other serious illnesses.
- Reimbursement of Expenses: The Act also includes provisions for reimbursing eligible family members for healthcare expenses related to the qualifying illnesses or medical conditions.
The U.S. government has made a significant effort to acknowledge and address the severe consequences of water contamination at Camp Lejeune through legislative responses. These initiatives give affected individuals a legal pathway to seek compensation and ensure they receive necessary healthcare, thus marking important steps towards justice and support for the victims.
Administrative Claims and Federal Lawsuits
The legal response to the Camp Lejeune water contamination has been multifaceted and complicated. While a system to allow affected individuals to seek compensation has been created, it is complex. It requires claimants to file a detailed administrative claim with the Department of the Navy before any federal lawsuit can be filed.
The administrative claim is a required preliminary step before a claimant can file any case in federal court. This process aims to provide the government entity responsible for the alleged harm with an opportunity to review and respond to the claim.
Administrative Claim Process
Filing with the Department of the Navy: The first step in filing a claim with the Department of the Navy is to submit an administrative claim to the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Navy’s Tort Claims Unit (TCU). This claim should provide details about the nature of the complaint, the damages sought, and supporting evidence, such as medical documentation and proof of presence at Camp Lejeune during the contamination period.
It’s essential to complete the claim form accurately and thoroughly, as the maximum compensation recoverable is the amount stated on the form. The deadline for filing under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act is two years. If you have previously filed a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act for a related illness, you must file a new claim under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act.
Review and Determination: Upon receiving a claim, the Department of the Navy reviews it to assess its validity and determine whether to settle it administratively.
Following this review, the claimant will receive a response from the Department of the Navy, which could be an offer to settle, a partial settlement, or a denial. If the Navy fails to resolve the administrative claim within six months of its filing by either paying the claim or denying it, the claimant can sue in federal court.
Lawsuits in Federal Court
If your administrative claim has been denied or the Navy has not responded to your administrative claim within the six-month waiting period, then the claimant may file a lawsuit. As outlined in the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, any lawsuit must be filed in federal court in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Camp Lejeune sits within the territory of the Eastern District of North Carolina. All Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits will be filed and litigated in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Further, all cases will be assigned to one of four specific judges within the Eastern District who have been specifically tasked with overseeing the Camp Lejeune cases.
Not only are there strict requirements of where and how the administrative claim and any lawsuit must be filed, but there are also strict requirements on when a Camp Lejeune claim must be filed. All civil claims have filing deadlines, called the statute of limitations. The deadline to file a Camp Lejeune claim is August 10, 2024. Any claim will likely be time-barred if you fail to file an administrative claim with the Department of Navy by this date.
Eligibility for Filing a Camp Lejeune Claim
The first step is determining whether you are eligible to file a claim or lawsuit regarding the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
To be eligible to file a claim or lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, you must meet these criteria:
- Time Period: You or a family member should have lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
- Exposure to Contaminated Water: You or a family member must have been exposed to the contaminated water during your stay at Camp Lejeune.
- Health Conditions: You or a family member should have developed health conditions scientifically linked to the exposure to the contaminated water. This includes specific illnesses, such as certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases.
Required Documentation and Proof
To make a claim related to Camp Lejeune, you must provide certain documents as proof. These may include military service records, employment records, or any other relevant documents that confirm you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the specified period.
You will also need to provide medical records proving the diagnosed health condition(s) you claim are linked to exposure to contaminated water. Finally, any additional evidence that shows the extent of the impact of your health condition on your life, such as records of treatment, impact on quality of life, and financial expenses incurred due to the health condition, will be helpful.
Recent Updates and Developments
The legal situation regarding the Camp Lejeune water contamination claims is constantly changing, with new updates often emerging.
- As of late 2023, a few settlements have been reported, and some cases have received significant compensation. However, the vast majority of the over 130,000 cases are still waiting for a resolution.
- There have been talks about denying jury trials for these cases. However, this proposal has faced significant opposition and is likely to fail.
- Ongoing negotiations and legal challenges are shaping the course of these lawsuits, including debates over the requirements for legal representatives in wrongful death claims.
Get Legal Help for a Camp Lejeune Claim
Navigating the complex legal terrain of Camp Lejeune claims may require a lawyer’s expertise. They will need to deeply understand the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 and related laws to ensure your claim meets intricate legal requirements and deadlines, which maximizes your chances of a favorable outcome.
Engaging a lawyer for your Camp Lejeune claim is not just a choice – it’s a strategic decision for effective case handling and ensuring your rights are fully represented. Affected veterans and their families should come forward, seek help, and obtain the legal advice necessary to navigate this challenging process.
To help veterans and their families who live in Southern California, our firm has teamed up with trial attorney and veteran Harry Blalock of Blalock LLC. Mr. Blalock is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who drank and bathed in the toxic water from Camp Lejeune. After suffering severe wounds in action during Vietnam, Blalock became a successful trial attorney with more than 40 years of experience. His law firm, Blalock LLC, is staffed by military veterans and is currently handling over 2,500 Camp Lejeune claims.