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What Is the Camp Lejeune Justice Act?

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act, as summarized on the U.S. House of Representatives website:

  • allows certain individuals to sue and recover damages for harm they suffered from being exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune* in North Carolina between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
  • is available only to individuals who were exposed to contaminated water for at least 30 days.
  • prohibits the U.S. government from asserting its general sovereign immunity in response to such a lawsuit.
  • also prohibits an individual who brings such an action from bringing a separate tort action against the United States based on the same injury.

*Including these satellite facilities: Air Station New River, Camp Geiger, Stone Bay, Courthouse Bay, Camp Johnson, and Greater Sandy Run Training Area.

On August 10, 2022, President Biden signed the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (the PACT Act) into law. The Camp Lejeune Justice Act was part of the PACT Act.

What exactly does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act do, and why did Congress have to pass a specific law to cover individuals affected by the toxic water at Camp Lejeune?

Camp Lejeune Justice Act Background Information

In the early 1980s, the U.S. government discovered dangerous contaminants in the water on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Testing found that the drinking water sources at Camp Lejeune were contaminated by toxic chemicals at levels from 240 to 3400 times higher than what is permitted by safety standards established by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The chemicals detected included benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) including the dry-cleaning solvent perchloroethylene (PCE). These chemicals are known to be harmful to humans. They cause cancer, miscarriages, and other serious diseases and conditions.

Before the Camp Lejeune Justice Act, Veterans and Family Members Couldn’t Sue the Government for Compensation

Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, a government can only be sued if the government allows those lawsuits. The basic reason is that the government passes the laws, establishes the courts, and controls the courts’ jurisdiction. The Federal Tort Claims Act is the primary way people can sue the U.S. Government for personal injuries. Enacted in 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act allows people to file a claim (and sue if their claim is denied) when they have been injured or their property has been damaged by the negligence of government employees acting within the scope of their official duties.

But veterans and military service members normally can’t sue the U.S. government for injuries they incur while serving on active duty. In 1950, the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Tort Claims Act did not authorize claims or lawsuits by service members injured while on active duty. The “Feres Doctrine”—named for that Supreme Court decision (Feres v. the United States, 340 U.S. 135)—thus bars lawsuits by service members based on environmental contamination on military bases.

And non-military members harmed by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune had been effectively unable to file claims because North Carolina has a law—a statute of repose  —barring lawsuits filed more than 10 years after the damage happened. Many (or most) of the victims of toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune were not aware of the harm until after that 10-year time limit, which left them with no legal recourse for their cancers, illnesses, miscarriages, and deaths.

But over time it became clear that many veterans suffered from cancers and other serious diseases and conditions because of their exposure to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, so in 2017 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established a rule of “presumptive service connection” for eight of the most common medical conditions affecting those veterans. Presumptive service connection means veterans suffering from one or more of those conditions did not need to prove it was caused by the water at Camp Lejeune. But this rule only allows qualifying veterans to receive VA healthcare and disability benefits. The VA did not and could not allow those veterans, their family members, or others who lived and worked on Camp Lejeune to seek full and fair compensation for their injuries and the consequences of the toxic exposure.

What Does the Camp Lejeune Justice Act Do?

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act tries to fix the problems described above by providing express legal authority for claims and lawsuits filed by the people affected (service members or not).

The passage of the Camp Lejeune Justice Act’s means that veterans, their family members (including those exposed in the womb), and people who worked on the base can sue the U.S government for the harm they have suffered.

Victims who were present on the base for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, may potentially be able to recover compensation for

  • Past and future medical treatments and expenses
  • Specialized medical care and therapies
  • Pain, disability, and suffering
  • Depression, anxiety, loss of quality of life, or emotional pain and suffering
  • Lost wages during treatment or recovery
  • Loss of future earnings
  • The wrongful death of a loved one

The Act does not entitle anyone to automatic recovery, and it does not cover anyone who has already been compensated. Veterans and others harmed by water at Camp Lejeune, or their legal representatives, must begin the process by filing an administrative before August 10, 2024, two years after the Camp Lejeune Justice Act became law.

Contact A Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Attorney

If you or a loved one worked or lived on Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and now suffer from cancer or another serious disease associated with the toxins in Camp Lejeune’s water, contact us for a free consultation.



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