Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Updates, News, and Information
Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Updates & News | March 2024
The Camp Lejeune lawsuit has been a significant topic in the news due to the substantial payouts and settlements associated with these cases. Some of the most recent and notable developments are:
Ongoing battles for the full production of muster rolls at Camp Lejeune highlight the challenges in documenting the presence of military personnel during the contamination period.
Judges ruled against jury trials for Camp Lejeune lawsuits, interpreting the CLJA as not granting an unequivocal right to a jury trial, a decision that has sparked controversy and debate.
Focus intensifies on specific cancers in the Camp Lejeune litigation, including laryngeal, lung, pharyngeal, thyroid, and colon cancers, following a new ATSDR study.
The ATSDR releases a study highlighting the increased risk of several types of cancer among Marines, Navy personnel, and civilian workers at Camp Lejeune compared to Camp Pendleton, with significant findings for acute myeloid leukemia, myeloid cancers, and more.
The Navy has begun evaluating claims, with over 164,000 claims filed. From the initial 29,000 claims processed, a distribution of claims by disease has been provided, showing a wide range of conditions, with "Other Diseases" being the largest subgroup:
- Kidney Cancer: 1,090 cases (3.76%)
- Liver Cancer: 501 cases (1.73%)
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: 750 cases (2.59%)
- Bladder Cancer: 1,447 cases (5.00%)
- Leukemias: 634 cases (2.19%)
- Multiple Myeloma: 790 cases (2.73%)
- Parkinson’s Disease: 1,120 cases (3.87%)
- Kidney Disease: 2,970 cases (10.25%)
- Systemic Scleroderma: 502 cases (1.73%)
- Other Diseases: 6,809 cases (23.51%)
The government has made significant updates in the selection of bellwether cases involving serious health conditions, with a potential trial commencement in the near future:
- Updated Bellwether Cases: The focus is on cases related to leukemia, Parkinson’s disease, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Potential Trial Date: The first trial in this series could begin as early as April, marking a crucial phase in the litigation process.
A status conference is scheduled for February 6, 2024, to address numerous outstanding issues, including whether the first trial in April will be a bench or jury trial, and whether it will involve one or multiple plaintiffs. The attorneys’ fees question also remains unresolved.
Department of Justice expressed concerns about the Track 1 Discovery Pool in the Camp Lejeune lawsuit, noting it mainly consists of claimants with longer exposure to contaminated water. The court recognized this issue but also observed that these claimants had self-selected into the federal litigation after exhausting their administrative claims.
- 1,483 Camp Lejeune lawsuits.
- 158,252 Administrative claims filed.
- There are four settlements Camp Lejeune cases.
- The average settlement amount is $242,000.
- Prostate cancer is most common – 14% of the claims. Kidney disease – 10%. Based on 29,000 claims the Navy has received
A crucial status conference has been set for January 23, 2024, at 11:00 AM, to be presided over by Judge Jones in Wilmington. Key points to note:
- Potential for Insightful Developments: These status conferences often reveal important information and developments in the litigation process.
- Opportunity for Progress Assessment: The conference will provide a platform to assess the current status and future direction of the ongoing legal proceedings.
The Justice Department and the Department of the Navy have issued an important warning about fraudulent activities aimed at individuals filing claims under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) of 2022. Key points of this alert include:
Beware of Scams: The warning emphasizes the need for claimants to be vigilant against deceptive tactics used to extract personal information or money.
Reporting Fraudulent Contacts: If claimants receive dubious phone calls or emails, they should report these incidents:
Those with attorneys should inform their legal representatives.
Those without legal counsel should contact the Navy’s Camp Lejeune Claims Unit (CLCU).
Attorney Represented Claimants: For those with legal representation, all official communications from the Justice Department and Navy will be conducted through their attorney.
This alert is crucial in ensuring the security and protection of Camp Lejeune claimants from potential scams and fraudulent activities.
In an ongoing legal matter, the plaintiffs have served extensive document requests on the United States, targeting a wide array of files from various federal agencies. Key developments include:
Extensive Document Requests: The plaintiffs have issued five sets of requests, encompassing a broad spectrum of documents.
Response by the United States: In reaction to these requests, the U.S. government has produced a substantial volume of documents, totaling over 415,000 files, which equate to 307,486 pages.
Ongoing Negotiations: The parties are currently engaged in discussions to finalize the terms for the discovery of electronically stored information (ESI).
This significant document production reflects the scale and complexity of the case, with ongoing negotiations indicating a continued effort to comprehensively address the information needs of the litigation.
The process of addressing claims related to Camp Lejeune has seen significant developments:
High Volume of Claims: The Navy has received approximately 147,428 administrative claims, indicating a substantial response to the call for submissions.
Claim Assessment System: To manage this influx, the Navy has implemented a system for the intake and analysis of claims, incorporating both a manual review process and utilizing data from the Veterans Administration (VA).
DOJ's Settlement Initiative: As of a week before Christmas, the Department of Justice (DOJ) identified 26 cases as eligible for settlement. Settlement offers have been extended, leading to a mix of acceptances, rejections, and expirations.
Settlement Payments Distributed: So far, payments totaling $1,450,000 have been made across six cases, averaging $241,667 per settlement.
These steps mark an important phase in the resolution process for the Camp Lejeune claims, as efforts continue to address the needs and rights of those affected by the water contamination incident.
The Camp Lejeune litigation, initially envisioned as a collaborative effort to rectify an injustice, is unfolding differently than expected. Despite the intention of the law passed to address these injustices, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is adopting a stance typical of defendants in mass tort cases:
- Denying Evidence: The DOJ is challenging evidence from its own agencies regarding the link between water contamination at Camp Lejeune and certain diseases.
- Contesting ATSDR Findings: The DOJ disputes the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) conclusions, deeming them overly cautious and unsupported by sufficient water sample data.
- Disregarding Expert Opinions: Statements from Dr. Frank Bove, an ATSDR expert asserting widespread exposure to contaminated water, are being dismissed by the government on grounds that he wasn't 'officially' representing the government's view.
This approach sharply contrasts with what Congress envisioned while passing the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), intended to facilitate justice rather than prolong disputes and denials.
In the ongoing Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) litigation, the government's stance on the role of estate representatives has sparked debate. Key points include:
- Government's Position: Estate representatives appointed outside North Carolina must establish additional estates within the state to pursue CLJA relief. This is seen as a burdensome process for plaintiffs, yet the government insists it's legally necessary.
- Shifting Rationale: Initially, the government argued for using North Carolina law to define “legal representative” under the CLJA, suggesting the Federal Tort Claims Act as a gap-filler. However, faced with opposition, the government shifted its argument, citing the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17 to justify its stance. Plaintiffs challenge this, noting that North Carolina law already recognizes any executor, administrator, or legally authorized individual as having the capacity to sue.
- Legal and Ethical Concerns: This evolving argument raises questions about the imposition of unnecessary burdens on victims. Plaintiffs question how this approach serves the interests of anyone involved, including the government, given its questionable legal basis and the additional hardships it imposes on those seeking justice.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert B. Jones recently ruled against granting plaintiffs access to a crucial draft report by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a decision that has stirred debate in the Camp Lejeune case. Key points of the ruling include:
- Reason for Denial: The draft report hasn't undergone the required external peer review, a process deemed vital for its completion. The government expressed concerns that an early release might disrupt this review and possibly mislead the public, especially if the final report differs significantly from the draft.
- Court’s Stance: The decision aims to preserve the integrity of the peer review and deliberative process. However, it has been perceived by many, including our lawyers, as prioritizing procedural formalities over the urgent informational needs of affected victims.
- Impact on Plaintiffs: As the deadline for filing Camp Lejeune claims approaches in August, and settlements begin, this ruling may critically affect plaintiffs. Without access to evolving scientific insights, attorneys might prematurely dismiss potentially valid Tier III cases.
The legal team believes that the public interest served by upholding the peer review process is outweighed by the necessity for victims to access information crucial to their claims. The denial of access to these documents could significantly impact the outcomes for many victims, raising concerns about the balance between procedural rules and the pressing needs of those impacted by the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Since October 1, 2023, the Eastern District of North Carolina has seen a notable rise in legal activity with 257 new civil lawsuits filed related to Camp Lejeune. This marks an increase in the volume of new cases compared to those filed over the summer and in September, indicating a growing trend in litigation concerning Camp Lejeune.
In response to perceived non-compliance by the government with Case Management Order No. 2 (CMO-2), the Plaintiffs’ Leadership Group (PLG) in the Camp Lejeune case has requested court intervention. Key issues raised include:
- Government’s Selection of Plaintiffs: PLG highlights two instances of the government's failure to adhere to CMO-2's eligibility criteria for plaintiff selection. Firstly, the selection of 29 plaintiffs who missed the deadline for filing Short Form Complaints and secondly, choosing 16 plaintiffs who were formally withdrawn from the Discovery Pool.
- PLG’s Request for Fairness: To ensure process integrity, PLG urges the court to enforce the guidelines and ensure the government selects only eligible plaintiffs.
Additionally, the PLG addresses concerns regarding a lawyer representing some Camp Lejeune plaintiffs:
- Concerns Over Professional Conduct: The PLG questions this lawyer's ability to collaborate effectively and criticizes his approach towards the leadership’s strategy.
- Proposed Exclusion: Due to these concerns, the PLG suggests excluding plaintiffs represented by this lawyer from the Track 1 Discovery Pool, emphasizing the need for unity and professional conduct in their collective pursuit of justice.
This week, plaintiffs in an ongoing case have scheduled 30(b)(6) depositions for the United States Marine Corps, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
A 30(b)(6) deposition is a legal procedure in civil lawsuits where organizations, as opposed to individuals, are deposed. It requires the organization to designate representatives to testify on its behalf. These depositions are integral for plaintiffs to obtain comprehensive testimony from these agencies.
- Jurisdiction: Managed by four judges in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
- Total Complaints: 1433 filed under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA).
- 11 voluntary dismissals.
- 3 dismissals of cases filed by self-represented litigants.
- Total Dismissed Cases: 14.
These latest figures highlight the ongoing legal process and case management for the Camp Lejeune lawsuits in this district.
In a surprising move, the U.S. government has requested federal judges in North Carolina to disallow jury trials for the water contamination cases at Camp Lejeune. Their rationale hinges on the argument that the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, which forms the legal foundation of these lawsuits, does not explicitly grant the right to a jury trial in claims against the federal government. This interpretation aligns with the government's view of how cases would proceed under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
However, there appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding, as the Camp Lejeune cases are distinctly separate from the Federal Tort Claims Act claims. This oversight by the Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG) suggests a high likelihood that the government's motion to prevent jury trials in these cases will be unsuccessful.
Yesterday, Judge Dever conceded additional time for the U.S. government to respond to the ongoing debate over the definition of "legal representative" as per the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The government maintains that for FTCA cases, legal representatives must be officially court-appointed outside of North Carolina and must establish an ancillary estate within the state, aligning with North Carolina's legal framework. This stance has resulted in a complex and burdensome process for plaintiffs, prompting them to challenge this interpretation. They have filed a motion arguing that the CLJA's more flexible standards should be favored over the FTCA's rigorous criteria, a contention that is now under further consideration due to the granted extension.
Plaintiffs involved in the Camp Lejeune litigation are pushing back against a cumbersome legal requirement. They have filed a motion requesting the court to waive the necessity for each plaintiff to establish an estate in North Carolina.
This debate stems from the U.S. government's interpretation of the law governing Camp Lejeune lawsuits. According to the government, under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), anyone acting as a “legal representative” for claims must not only be appointed by a court outside of North Carolina but also must set up an ancillary estate within the state. This requirement, based on North Carolina law, is deemed essential for determining the eligible representative in wrongful death cases under the FTCA, but plaintiffs argue it's an excessive administrative burden.
Plaintiffs contend that their claims are governed by the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), not the FTCA. According to Section 804(b) of the CLJA, a “legal representative” is authorized to file a lawsuit. The term, they argue, typically refers to someone managing a decedent’s estate and is not specifically tied to North Carolina law or conditions for initiating a CLJA lawsuit.
Furthermore, the plaintiffs assert that even if there is any ambiguity in the CLJA regarding the term “legal representative,” it would still be inappropriate to impose FTCA criteria. The scope of the FTCA, they argue, does not extend to federal actions like those under the CLJA or to injuries suffered by servicemembers in the line of duty, thereby distinguishing CLJA claims from FTCA requirements.
The outcome of this motion, filed on behalf of one plaintiff, is poised to significantly influence every other lawsuit in this extensive litigation, potentially streamlining the legal process for numerous plaintiffs.
November has seen a notable uptick in legal activity regarding Camp Lejeune, with around 100 lawsuits being filed. This significant number underscores the growing concerns and legal actions related to this case.
The scheduled Camp Lejeune Status Conference for Tuesday, November 6, 2023, has been canceled. The following session has been rescheduled and is now set to take place on November 21, 2023.
Efforts to advance settlements in the Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits are gaining momentum, with plaintiffs' attorneys and the government actively working together. A critical step in this process involves the development of a questionnaire designed to gather essential details from the affected parties. This tool will be instrumental in evaluating individual cases and formulating fair compensation strategies. Alongside, there's an ongoing initiative to establish a highly secure database, specifically for storing and managing the sensitive information collected.
While some claims appear to be on the verge of reaching settlement agreements soon, a considerable number of cases still demand and deserve their day in court. This duality underscores the necessity of not only negotiating settlements where feasible but also persistently advocating for trial dates to be set at the earliest, ensuring justice is thoroughly served for all involved.
A recent court directive outlines the protocol for managing privileged information in the Camp Lejeune cases against the government. The directive emphasizes the preservation of privileges, such as attorney-client communications, even if disclosed unintentionally during the lawsuit. Should privileged content be inadvertently shared, the recipient must notify the sender and promptly return or discard the materials. While parties have the right to refrain from presenting certain documents based on legal privileges, any disagreements over the confidentiality of documents can be referred to the Court for resolution.
The EPA is stepping forward with a recommendation to entirely ban the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE), citing significant health risks, including cancer. Notably, TCE was a main contaminant in the drinking water supply at Camp Lejeune. This move by the EPA underscores the alarming toxicity levels the residents of Camp Lejeune were exposed to.
A month has passed since the Navy and the Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated the early settlement program at Camp Lejeune, a promising development that allows qualifying claimants to access immediate settlement payouts. There was substantial curiosity regarding the potential effects this new program might have on the influx of new civil cases under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA).
However, early indications suggest that the program has not deterred Camp Lejeune victims from filing new civil cases. In fact, since the settlement offer program's introduction in early September, the courts have seen 193 new CLJA civil cases. This number is not just a mere continuation of previous trends; it's a significant escalation. To put it in perspective, the month preceding the program's announcement witnessed only around 50 new civil cases, making the recent spike in filings all the more noteworthy.
Recent developments have emerged in the ongoing Camp Lejeune litigation, with North Carolina judges introducing modifications to Case Management Order #2 shortly after its initial issuance last week. This order, pivotal in guiding discovery procedures, requires both parties to engage in monthly meetings to discuss potential agreements and mandates consistent updates to the Court on the progress of these discussions. Additionally, it sets the stage for anticipated trial dates in the coming year for Lejeune cases.
Details of Amendments in Case Management Order:
Despite a halt on all individual dockets under the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), a key update in Section IV.D. necessitates that defense attorneys continue to formally acknowledge their participation in specific CLJA cases. This acknowledgment is achieved by submitting a Notice of Appearance upon receiving a Notice of Service, conforming to the protocols established in Standing Order 23-SO-1.
Clarifications in Section VI emphasize the obligation for any attorney representing a plaintiff in individual CLJA litigation to officially register their involvement with the court. This formal introduction entails filing a Notice of Appearance or Notice of Special Appearance, in strict adherence to Local Civil Rule 5.2(a). For attorneys not previously authorized to practice in this jurisdiction, compliance with the Court’s directive dated April 24, 2023, is compulsory. This includes the submission of a distinct request (pro hac vice motion) for each individual CLJA case they undertake.
The federal court in North Carolina, responsible for the Camp Lejeune lawsuits, has proclaimed that the inaugural set of trials will commence next year. These trials will be organized into different "Tracks," each corresponding to the primary health condition or disease cited by the plaintiff. The initial track for trial will encompass cases involving plaintiffs afflicted with Tier 1 diseases as per the early settlement program, including Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney cancer, and bladder cancer.
In a decisive ruling last Friday, the North Carolina judges rejected an attempt to overthrow the established attorney leadership structure for the Camp Lejeune cases. This decision is perceived positively, as it maintains stability for the victims and allows legal teams to concentrate on advancing settlements and preparing remaining cases for trial.
Comprehensive insights into the specifics of the Camp Lejeune settlement proposal have been compiled and are accessible on a dedicated page for those seeking more in-depth information.
The Navy is currently seeking an extension until October 2, 2023, to formulate responses to the ongoing Camp Lejeune lawsuits, a move that might not come as a surprise to observers. This development is not causing any contention, as the main plaintiffs' attorneys have not objected to the motion. Background discussions on a case management plan involving the DOJ and other parties culminated in a submission to the court for approval on August 28, 2023. It's important to note that while the court previously granted the DOJ an extension until October 2, 2023, for responding to certain cases, this did not apply to cases where responses were already filed. In a bid to ensure consistency with the proposed case management plan, the DOJ has requested this additional extension.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ongoing battles for the full production of muster rolls at Camp Lejeune highlight the challenges in documenting the presence of military personnel during the contamination period.