Camp Lejeune Esophageal Cancer Lawsuit

Our lawyers are handling Camp Lejeune esophageal cancer lawsuits in all 50 states.  This page is about how contaminated water causes esophageal cancer for Marines and their families at Lejeune and what settlement amounts these injury and wrongful death lawsuits might bring.

For over 3 decades, ending in the late 1980s, the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina supplied residents and employees with drinking water that was heavily contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals.  It has been shown that exposure to these chemicals in the water caused Camp Lejeune residents and employees to develop various types of cancer.

Esophageal cancer is one of the cancer types that have been conclusively linked to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Victims of this contamination disaster will soon be able to bring civil lawsuits and get compensation under a new federal law pending in Congress. Our firm is currently accepting cases from individuals who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune and were diagnosed with esophageal cancer.


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Water Contamination at Camp Lejeune

Camp Lejeune is an immense Marine Corps base and training facility north of Wilmington, North Carolina. The base covers over 150,000 acres and has been in continuous use since the early 1940s. Camp Lejeune has been a hometown and workplace to millions, their families, and civilian contractors. Lejeune is home to over 50,000 people at any given time. The base has barracks, family housing, schools, and hospitals. Camp Lejeune even has its own water supply system fed by massive underground aquifer wells.

In the 1980s, it was discovered that the water supply at Camp Lejeune was seriously contaminated. The water contained very high levels of 2 chlorinated solvents perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). It was eventually determined that the water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated from August 1953 until late 1987.  The level of TCE and PCE in the Lejeune water during this time was over a thousand times higher than the EPA maximum safe levels.

It has been estimated that over 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune over the relevant period. This includes Marines stationed at the base, their families, and civilian contractors and employees.

Camp Lejeune Water Cause Esophageal Cancer

The Camp Lejeune water contamination was a major black eye for the Marine Corps and the federal government. It was one of the worst incidents of drinking water contamination in U.S. history. The government responded by funding several massive studies by various public health agencies.

The Camp Lejeune studies began with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is a branch of the CDC. ATSDR has been continuously involved in research on the water contamination at Camp Lejeune since 1991. The ATSDR’s early work at Lejeune provided historical modeling of the estimated contamination levels in the Lejeune water system.

The contamination modeling data provided by the ATSDR enabled several epidemiologic studies on the health impact that the water contamination had on Lejeune residents and employees. These studies have named a number of adverse health outcomes associated with Lejeune, including birth defects, cancer, and other diseases.

2009 NRC Report

The National Research Council (NRC) report entitled Contaminated Water Supplies at Camp Lejeune: Assessing Potential Health Effects (NRC Report) was released in 2009. The NRC Report was one of the first comprehensive examinations of the health consequences of the Camp Lejeune water contamination. The NRC Report concluded that exposure to the chemicals in the water at Camp Lejeune was associated with higher rates of esophageal cancer.

VA Clinical Guidance

In 2012, a special committee composed of leading medical and scientific experts was convened by the Veteran’s Administration (the “VA Committee”). The VA Committee was tasked with assessing the applicable evidence and advising the VA with clinical opinions as to what diseases could be linked to the Lejeune water contamination based on solid evidence.

The VA Committee published official Clinical Guidance for health conditions related to Camp Lejeune based on the results of these efforts. The VA Clinical Guidance identified 8 health conditions that were presumptively associated with the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Esophageal cancer was one of the cancers that was found to be linked to the Lejeune water.

ATSDR Studies

Beginning in 2014, the ATSDR has published the results of several long-term mortality and cancer incidence studies for the Camp Lejeune population (the “ATSDR Studies”). The  ATSDR Studies confirmed earlier findings that showed that esophageal cancer has a strong link to the Lejeune water.

The ATSDR Studies determined that exposure to chlorinated solvents in the water at Camp Lejeune caused significantly higher rates of esophageal cancer among Lejeune residents and employees.

New Law Allows Camp Lejeune Lawsuits for Esophageal Cancer

In the past, Camp Lejeune water pollution victims have been blocked from brining civil lawsuits and getting compensation. A new federal law allows Lejeune victims to bring claims against the government.

The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) gives Camp Lejeune water contamination victims a 2-year window to file civil lawsuits against the government for injuries related to the Lejeune water.  Under the CLJA, plaintiffs still have the burden of proving the basic facts of their claims, but the bill establishes a lowered standard of proof for the issue of causation.   Our lawyers talk more about this below.

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How Much Are Camp Lejeune Esophageal Cancer Cases Worth?

Our lawyers believe that Camp Lejeune esophageal cancer cases under the CLJA could have a per person average settlement amount between $200,000 and $600,000.  That is the projected average settlement.  Individual esophageal cancer lawsuits will have will have settlements and jury payouts that are higher (and lower) than this average.

Esophageal cancer has one of the highest settlement compensation payout estimates for any type of CLJA. One reason for the high value is that esophageal cancer has a 5-year overall survival rate of just 20%, making it a very dangerous type of cancer. Moreover, the treatment options for this type of cancer can leave individuals unable to speak and are very debilitating in many ways.

Let’s put these settlement compensation payout projections in some context.  Before we get into the potential settlement amounts for a Camp Lejeune esophageal cancer lawsuit under the new law, understand that these value estimates are the product of educated guesswork.  We look at esophageal cancer settlements payouts and jury verdicts, talk to other Camp Lejeune lawyers, and consider the strengths and weaknesses of these lawsuits.  Nobody can say for certain how much Camp Lejeune claims will eventually be worth. The CLJA has not even been passed yet and there are many other variables.

That being said, we can offer a reasonably reliable estimate of the potential settlement value of Camp Lejeune esophageal cancer lawsuits by looking at settlements and verdicts for cancer of the esophagus in prior tort cases (e.g., failure to diagnose cases). We can also look at the nature and survival rate for esophageal cancer as factors in the estimated valuation of these claims.

Example Camp Lejeune Esophageal Cancer Lawsuit

An example of an esophagus cancer lawsuit is Blackmer, et al. v. United States (7:22-cv-123). The Blackmer case involved wrongful death claims filed on behalf of two veterans, Allen Hardy and David Blackmer, who were both stationed at Camp Lejeune and subsequently died from esophageal cancer. Hardy was at Camp Lejeune from 1974 to 1976 and he died from esophageal cancer in 2012. Blacker was at Lejeune from March 1987 to March 1988 and he died from esophageal cancer in 2017.

Lawsuit Allegations

The Complaint asserts that exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune “caused or at least as likely as not caused” both men to develop esophageal cancer. These esophageal cancer claims were brought by the personal representatives of the estates for both deceased veterans. For Blackmer, the original PR of the estate (his surviving spouse) had since passed away. So his son was appointed as the new estate PR to give him standing to bring the CLJA case. Hardy’s case was brought by his daughter, who also had to be appointed PR of the estate in place of her mother who had already passed away.

How Did They File a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Before the Six Month Administrative Period?

The same day that the CLJA was signed into law by President Biden (August 10, 2022), a number of Camp Lejeune lawsuits were immediately filed in the Eastern District of North Carolina. How were they able to get around the 6 month waiting period required by the statute?

These are so-called “legacy cases” because that were first filed years ago. There were dismissed based on the North Carolina repose statute. The plaintiffs in these cases already went through the 6-month administrative claim process before filing suit the first time. So they are eligible to be file immediately.

Smoking History May Not Be a Problem in a Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

In a normal tort case, establishing the causation link between the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and esophageal cancer would be difficult if either Hardy or Blackmer had a history of smoking. Esophageal cancer is known to be linked to cigarette smoking. So under the traditional “more likely than not” standard in a civil case, it would be very difficult to prove that the Lejeune water was a “more likely” cause than the smoking.

Fortunately, the CLJA adopts a lower standard known as “equipoise causation.” Under the equipoise standard, the plaintiff can prove causation simply by showing that the bad Lejeune water was one of many potential causes of the cancer. The CLJA marks the first time that the equipoise standard has been applied in a tort case.

Contact a Camp Lejeune Lawyer About Esophageal Cancer

If you (or a deceased family member) lived or worked at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 and were later diagnosed with esophageal cancer, contact the Camp Lejeune cancer lawyers at Miller & Zois at 800-553-8082 or just reach out us online.  

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