How Far Has the Camp Lejeune Litigation Progressed?

 In August 2022, President Joe Biden’s Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) came as a ray of hope for victims on the verge of giving up. It had been three decades since the Camp’s supply waters were found to be contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Camp Lejeune Litigation Progressed

President Barack Obama had made provisions for free healthcare, but there was no way to compensate for the damage caused. The one million victims of this tragedy paid a heavy price with injuries like cancer, renal toxicity, Parkinson’s disease, etc.

The statute of limitations for the lawsuit was set at two years from the Bill’s passing date. Till now, 117,000 administrative claims have been filed and many more are expected by August 2024. At first, the litigation’s snail pace concerned claimants and the plaintiff's counsel.

However, major progress has been made in the current state of affairs. This article will discuss how far the Camp Lejeune litigation has come, along with the tentative timeline for settlements hereafter.

A Major Turn in the Long Road to Justice

Even after a year of the Bill’s passing, little to no movement in the litigation was observed. The Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) stated that staffing and funding shortages were to blame. The best lawyers for the Camp Lejeune lawsuit across the US had created immense pressure on the Navy for claims resolution.

Finally, a breakthrough settlement offer was made in the wake of September 2023. The government decided to find a shortcut by offering settlements based on the claimant’s specific illness and the duration of their stay. 

The chief conditions covered under this offer were cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and renal toxicity. However, it was clear that this move only aimed at reducing the piling number of claims. 

The offer only made sense in cases where it would be difficult to prove the direct correlation between the claimant’s injuries and the Camp’s waters. Other than that, it could best be described as rough justice served on a quick platter.

For instance – if a claimant developed kidney cancer after five years at the Base, they could receive nearly $450,000. In truth, only a few were stationed that long. If some others developed a much more advanced stage of the disease but spent a year at the Camp, they could receive only $150,000.

DOJ Estimates the Total Settlement Amounts 

Immediately after the settlement offer was made, the plaintiff's counsel was unimpressed. Attorneys were able to see right through this tactic of claims reduction. However, it was surprising to observe that several claimants were willing to negotiate.

By that point, around 1,100 lawsuits had already been filed. Many of these claimants were either in their sunset years or close to succumbing to their injuries. As a result, they just wanted this tedious struggle to be over.

Moreover, North Carolina’s federal court announced that the litigation’s first Bellwether trials would take place in early 2024. To facilitate an easy and comprehensive resolution, the judges decided to organize the trials into three tracks.

Currently, it is known that the diseases included under Track I are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and cancers of the kidney, bladder, and liver. On one hand, rumors of confidential settlements were circulating. On the other, the Department of Justice (DOJ) estimated the total value of payouts to be $3.3 trillion.

Submission of the Joint Status Report

According to TorHoerman Law, individual payouts for the litigation are yet to be decided. Judges had asked attorneys to submit a joint status report in late October for review. This report will outline their proposals and the progress of settlement talks.

As per the report, both parties are planning to develop a detailed questionnaire to collect information on the claimants’ injuries. Priority is being given to the most severe cases that require immediate settlement.

Along with the information, the attorneys are also deciding the documentation needs that back up the claims made. The aim is to speed up the litigation’s progress for top-priority cases and place a value on each claim.  

The Road Ahead

The government has also agreed to negotiate terms for the joint status report. However, its lawyers are moving cautiously due to privacy reasons. 

It is believed that both parties will find their middle ground to settle a large number of claims in the upcoming weeks. Even instances of bogus claims are coming to light. 

In any case, some headway has been made to ensure there are no more delays. Those who do not accept the settlement offer will have to wait for the 2024 Bellwether trials for fair compensation.

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