What is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act and How Does it Help Victims?
Thousands of American veterans and their families were effectively poisoned by drinking contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987, causing those veterans to develop serious health problems later in life, including cancer and other chronic diseases and conditions.
Since these dangerous health effects have been discovered, there have been many efforts to hold the federal government accountable for its massive failure at Camp Lejeune. But because of the difficulties associated with suing the government, including issues of immunity, statutes of limitations, and other procedural hurdles, many of these lawsuits were not successful. Thousands of sick veterans were thus left without any remedy for the injuries they sustained at the hands of the United States government.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022
In 2022, the United States Congress finally passed a law enabling veterans affected by the Camp Lejeune contamination to access justice. Previous laws had allowed access to free medical care for Camp Lejeune veterans and family members, but had stopped short of providing for monetary compensation through the legal issue.
After years of advocacy by veterans groups, the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 was passed on March 3, 2022 as part of the Honoring Our PACT Act. The law allows Camp Lejeune victims to sue the federal government, as it creates a private cause of action for victims of the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
The act also bypasses procedural hurdles that previously prevented the Camp Lejeune victims from being able to recover monetary compensation for their injuries in previous attempted lawsuits. President Biden signed the bill into law in August 2022.
How Does the New Law Help Camp Lejeune Victims?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act’s primary purpose is to make it easier for affected veterans and their families to access monetary compensation for injuries suffered because of the drinking water contamination at Camp Lejeune. In addition to veterans, the law applies to family members, civilian staff workers, contractors, and any other person who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 for a 30 day period, including babies who were exposed to the water in utero.
To access compensation, the law allows affected people to file lawsuits against the federal government who have experienced any of the 15 conditions identified by the VA as being directly correlated to exposure to the Camp Lejeune contaminated water. Those conditions are:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myleodysplastic syndromes
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Neurobehavioral effects (including mental health issues)
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
Additionally, the law provides for a right to a jury trial that otherwise doesn’t exist, and the law provides for strict liability, which means that a claimant does not have to prove the government’s negligence. The law also strips governmental immunities, which represented a significant hurdle to plaintiffs before the law’s passage. In short, the law makes it much easier for affected veterans and their families to recover financial compensation from the federal government for injuries caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
If you or a family member lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for 30 days between 1953 and 1982, and have now developed one of the above listed severe health defects, you may be entitled to compensation under the new law. Contact us today for more information.