The two plaintiffs in this case have filed a petition in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Their complaint asks the Court to issue an order allowing their deposition testimony to be preserved as they wait for the government to complete an administrative review. The review must resolve before they can file suit.
- The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 lets service members and their families exposed to the base’s contaminated water from 1953-1987 pursue injury claims.
- Each claimant must wait six months for the government to tender a settlement offer before filing a lawsuit.
- The petition requests an order to allow their pre-lawsuit deposition to save testimony that may be lost if the plaintiffs die.
- Camp Lejeune plaintiffs in the tens of thousands await a chance to file their lawsuits.
A Marine Corps. base that opened in North Carolina in 1942, Camp Lejeune’s had water was contaminated between the 1950s and late 1980s. The camp’s water has been blamed for causing tens of thousands of cancer cases among exposed veterans and family members. The U.S. government denied the problems for decades as it denied all claims. Government spokesmen said potential plaintiffs were barred under North Carolina statute of limitations laws and/or other built-in government defenses.
President Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act in August 2022. The Act opened a two-year window for people to pursue claims over injuries caused by their exposure to the base’s contaminated water between 1953 and 1987. It included benefits even for those who were previously denied them.
The Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Process
Per the new law, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina has jurisdiction over all Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits. The law requires claimants to first go through an administrative process prior to filing any new claim. That first step gives the U.S. government six months to offer a Camp Lejeune injury settlement to a given claimant prior to the filing of any suit. Sadly, that six-month delay could adversely affects many thousands of present and future claimants. Many Camp Lejeune plaintiffs face serious health conditions. Many may not live long enough to file suit.
Plaintiffs Robert Howard Sauer and Gary Edward Johnson filed a complaint on January 12 that calls for preserving their testimony while their lawsuits go through the administrative review process. They asked the Court to require pre-suit depositions so that any future jury can hear their direct testimony.
The petition reads:
“Specifically, Petitioners were each during the pertinent times military servicemembers who assert and state for the purposes of this Verified Petition, and will in due course allege in their prospective merits claims, that they were stationed in relevant areas at Camp Lejeune, were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune during relevant times, that they have since been diagnosed with relevant illnesses, and that they otherwise intend to allege merits claims under the CLJA in due course upon the appropriate exhaustion of the administrative pre-suit claims process that is now commenced or is shortly to commence for each of said servicemember Petitioners herein. However, Petitioners cannot bring such merits claims against the United States Respondent in Court at this time, due to the requirement under the CLJA with regard to first exhausting the pre-suit administrative claims process.”
Both men say Camp Lejeune water caused them to develop cancer. Both have been told their conditions are terminal, which is further argument to preserve their testimony. They feel they may not survive long enough to be heard and see the process complete.
The 88-year-old Mr. Sauer has been diagnosed with skin cancer, carcinoid cancer, and bladder cancer. The petition says he was a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. He served as a medical doctor on the base for two years from about 1964 to 1966. In March 2022, doctors told him he had just six months to two years to live.
The 80-year-old Mr. Johnson served at Camp Lejeune for roughly two years in the 1960s. He was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2017, and was also diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, chronic kidney disease, and hepatic steatosis. The petition says he is not expected to survive more than a year.
A Million Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Claimants
More than a million U.S. Marines and family members were exposed to contaminated Camp Lejeune water from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Some reports indicate Camp Lejeune’s toxic water may have caused:
- 50,000 + breast cancer cases
- 28,000 bladder cancer cases
- 24,000 renal cancer cases
- thousands of Parkinson’s disease cases
- other health complications
- birth defects cases
- wrongful death for thousands of children exposed in utero
The new law requires:
Before filing a lawsuit under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, each claimant must provide notice of a claim to the U.S. Navy, which must then deny the claim in writing or fail to resolve the claim within six months. Then the claim can move forward.
A U.S. Navy Judge Advocate’s General’s (JAG) Corps spokesman has confirmed that roughly 14,000 claims have been filed since the 2022 Act was passed. That number is probably much smaller than the total number of claims coming in the Camp Lejeune water contamination litigation.
January 16, 2023 Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawsuit Update
Thousands of additional Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits are expected to be filed in the new year, 2023, and more are expected in subsequent years, as the latent stage for many cancers is decades in the making.
The government has admitted toxic chemicals contaminated Camp Lejeune water for decades. However, the new law still requires individual plaintiffs to prove their specific injury was caused by the camp’s water. Claimants seek settlement for a broad spectrum of cancers linked to Camp Lejeune water. Those cancers include:
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Brain Cancer
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Central Nervous System Cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Colon Cancer/Colorectal Cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Hodgkins Lymphoma
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Prostate Cancer
- Rectal Cancer
- Thyroid Cancer