Camp Lejeune: Claim Fact Sheet
By Adam J. Langino, Esq.
U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune was established in 1942.[i] In 1982, the Marine Corps discovered that the drinking water provided by two of the eight water treatment plants on base was contaminated.[ii] The systems were shut down in February, 1985.[iii]
From August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987, people living or working at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals. The U.S. government’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry estimates that as many as one million military and civilian staff and their families may have been exposed to contaminated drinking water.[iv]
What injuries are associated with Camp Lejeune water contamination?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) lists several diseases presumptively caused by Camp Lejeune water contamination. A “presumptive” service connection means that the VA presumes that the veteran’s military service caused the disease.[v]
For veterans, reservists, and guardsmen, the VA lists the following diseases as being presumptively caused by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune:[vi]
Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
However, other diseases veterans and their family members suffer are also related to Camp Lejeune’s water contamination. The VA lists the following as potentially compensable diseases:[vii]
H.R.3967 - Honoring our PACT Act of 2022
On June 17, 2021, Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA-41) introduced H.R. 3967, a law now commonly referred to as the Honoring our Pact Act of 2021 or “PACT Act.” That law was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 3, 3022, and by the U.S. Senate on June 16, 2022. Due to a change in the bill, however, the bill was sent back to the Senate where it failed to pass a second time.[viii] On August 2, 2022, the bill passed the Senate for a second time. President Joseph Biden signed the PACT Act on August 10, 2022.
The PACT Act addresses health care, the presumption of service connection to diseases, research, resources, and other matters related to veterans exposed to toxic substances during military service, including veterans and their families exposed to water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
Section 804 of the PACT Act explicitly addresses the water contamination at Camp Lejeune and now is commonly referred to as the “Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022.” That part of the law allows anyone who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and later suffered an illness linked to the contamination to sue the government for damages.[ix]
Who is covered?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 covers individuals, including veterans and family members, who resided, worked, or were otherwise exposed (including in utero exposure) for not less than 30 days during the period beginning on August 1, 1953, and ending on December 31, 1987, to water at Camp Lejeune.
What do I have to prove?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 requires that the individual filing a claim has the burden of proving their disease or injury was caused by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated water.
Specifically, the law requires that the person produce evidence showing that the relationship between exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune and their harm is sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship exists or sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship is at least as likely as not.
When do I have to file a claim?
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 requires a claim to be filed within two years after the enactment of the Act. That means the two-year window to file claims starting August 10, 2022.
Procedure for filing a claim
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 requires the claimant first to provide the federal government the opportunity to settle the lawsuit before it is filed. The process is like many other injury lawsuits against the U.S. government.
The Act says that a person may not file a lawsuit before complying with Section 2675 of Title 28, United States Code.
The Camp Lejeune Act does not require any specific way to place the government on notice; however, the government provides a standard form to use to put it on notice.[x] The form is a 1-page form that is fillable online.[xi] A copy of the form can be found here.
The Department of Navy provides specific instructions on how to fill out the form.[xii] For a personal injury or wrongful death claim, a claimant is typically requested to provide copies of their complete medical records, written reports by their physicians, itemized medical bills, and information from the claimant’s employer if lost wages are claimed too.[xiii] However, due to the number of potential claims the U.S. is not requiring medical records of substantiating documents to be included with the initial filing. A copy of the instructions can be found here.
For personal injury or wrongful death claims, you must demand a certain dollar figure. Asking for an approximate amount is not acceptable.[xiv] Make sure you are thoughtful in your request because Section 2675 of Title 28, United States Code, makes it clear that any "[a]ction under this section shall not be instituted for any sum in excess of the amount of the claim presented to the federal agency, except where the increased amount is based upon newly discovered evidence not reasonably discoverable at the time of presenting the claim to the federal agency, or upon allegation and proof of intervening facts, relating to the amount of the claim."
In plain English, in most instances, a claimant cannot ask for more money in their lawsuit than they asked for in their administrative claim.
After completing the form, the claimant must send all documentation to the Department of the Navy’s Office of the Judge Advocate General directed to its "Tort Claims Unit Norfolk" located at 9620 Maryland Ave., Suite 205, Norfolk, VA 23511-2949. Due to the number of potential claims, the U.S. is requesting the forms be sent via email to CLclaims@us.navy.mil.
All claims are then thoroughly investigated. The more information you can provide your form, the faster the government can complete its investigation. By federal law, the government has to act on the claim six months from the date the claim is presented correctly. At that time, the claimant is notified if their claim will be settled or denied.
Procedure for filing a lawsuit
If your claim is denied, the next step is filing a lawsuit. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 requires all cases to be filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Is this different than my VA disability claim?
Yes, the Camp Lejeune Act is separate from your disability claim. The Act compensates for damages not covered by your VA disability claim, like your pain and suffering. Filing a claim under the Camp Lejeune Act does not affect your disability claim.
How is my lawyer paid?
Typically, your lawyer is paid on a contingent basis. That means that if your lawyer makes a recovery on your behalf, they take a percentage of that recovery before any money is paid to you. On the other hand, if your lawyer is unable to make a recovery for you, then they do not seek to collect money from you.
Contingency fees do not appear to be capped under The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022. Many lawyers charge a 40% to 33.3% contingency fee; however, the government fee cap rule for Federal Tort Claims requires that your lawyer's contingency be no more than twenty-five percent (25%) if a lawsuit is filed or twenty percent (20%) if your claim is administratively resolved.
In March 2021, Rep. Matt Cartwright introduced a version of the Act that capped attorney fees under the government fee cap rule. However, that version did not pass.[xv] The Camp Lejeune Justice Act that became law is silent as to whether the fee cap applies. Many lawyers believe these claims fall outside the Federal Tort Claims Act and are an independent cause of action.
In December 2022, it became clear that the government fee cap rule does not apply to Camp Lejeune claims. However, the U.S. legislature may pass a bill limiting attorney's fees in the future. On December 4, 2022, a senate bill was offered on the floor to cap attorneys' fees. However, the bill failed. You should discuss the fee cap with any lawyer you are considering hiring.
Is Langino Law PLLC accepting Camp Lejeune claims?
Langino Law PLLC is now accepting Camp Lejeune claims. However, it will only be doing so on a limited basis. If you're interested, please act quickly. While other law firms may sign up any claim regardless of merit, Langino Law PLLC is only accepting claims that meet specific criteria to ensure its clients have the highest chance of success in making a recovery.
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[viii] Solon, Zach. “Veterans Frustrated as Senate Fails to Pass ‘Pact Act.’” Https://Www.wect.com, https://www.wect.com/2022/07/29/veterans-frustrated-senate-fails-pass-pact-act/.