Our law firm is handling heart defect Camp Lejeune lawsuits in all 50 states.
For 34 years, marines, their families, and civilian employees at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were exposed to toxic chemicals in the drinking water. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to this contaminated water to increased rates of heart defects. Thanks to a new federal law, victims with heart defects can now bring a Camp Lejeune lawsuit and get well-deserved compensation.
On this page, our lawyers:
- examine the connection between exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and heart defects (cardiac defects)
- explain who may be eligible to bring a Camp Lejeune heart defect lawsuit
- provide estimated settlement values for Camp Lejeune heart defect lawsuits.
The Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune
Founded in preparation for WWII, USMC base Camp Lejeune is located on the North Carolina coast near the town of Jacksonville, NC. The base rapidly evolved into a small town, with barracks, family housing, schools, hospitals, etc. The facilities at Camp Lejeune accommodate an on-base resident population of around 54,000 composed of marines, spouses, children and other family members. Civilian employees also work on base.
Camp Lejeune has its own water supply system to supply potable water to the base residents and employees. In the 1980s, the water quality at Camp Lejeune was tested for the first time. This testing revealed that the water was basically poisoned by extremely high levels of toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
The two primary VOCs found in the Camp Lejeune water at high levels were perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). TCE and PCE are part of a family of chemicals known as chlorinated solvents or organic solvents. Two other toxic chemicals, benzene and vinyl chloride, were also in the Camp Lejeune water. The one thing that all of these chemicals have in common is that they are well known to be very toxic to the human body and linked to cancer.
The levels of the harmful chemicals TCE and PCE in the water supply at Camp Lejeune were dangerously high. Testing found that the levels of carcinogenic chemicals in the Lejeune water were several thousand times above the maximum safe limit for drinking water.
When was the Camp Lejeune Water Contaminated?
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), performed on site testing and historical modeling of the water contamination at Lejeune. The ATSDR final conclusion what that the Lejeune water contamination began in August 1953 and ended in December 1987.
Did the Camp Lejeune Water Cause Heart Defects?
Studies by various public health agencies, including a series of health studies by the ATSDR, have been done to evaluate the impact that the water contamination at Camp Lejeune had on base residents and employees who were exposed to it.
There is evidence that exposure to certain chemicals in contaminated water may increase the risk of congenital heart defects. One chemical of particular concern is TCE – which was everywhere at Lejuen – a colorless liquid that is used as a solvent and degreaser in many industrial and manufacturing processes.
Studies have shown that exposure to TCE during pregnancy may increase the risk of congenital heart defects in babies. For example, a study of pregnant women who lived in a community where TCE had contaminated the water supply found that those who had been exposed to higher levels of the chemical were more likely to have a child with a congenital heart defect.
Other chemicals that have been linked to an increased risk of congenital heart defects include perchloroethylene (PCE), which is commonly used in dry cleaning, and benzene, which is used in the production of plastics, resins, and synthetic fibers.
Based on these efforts, a list of health conditions have been named as being presumptively or potentially linked to the Camp Lejeune water based on varying levels of evidence.
The health conditions on this list are often divided in two categories or tiers based on the strength of scientific evidence connecting the condition to the Camp Lejeune water.
Diseases in Tier I are those with the strongest evidence of causation and which have been named as “presumptively” connected to Camp Lejeune by the VA or ATSDR. Tier II diseases are those that have not been named as presumptively linked to Camp Lejeune because the evidence of causation is not as strong.
Heart defects or cardiac defects are considered a Tier II Camp Lejeune health condition. Heart defects are in Tier II because this is not one of the health conditions that has been named as “presumptively” linked to the water at Camp Lejeune.
However, there is independent epidemiological evidence showing that occupational exposure to TCE (one of the chemicals that contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune) may be associated with heart defects. This includes a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology which showed a “significant association” between exposure to TCE in drinking water and congenital heart disease and other cardiac defects.
VA Appeal Board Has Previously Recognized Connection Between Heart Defects and Camp Lejeune Water
In 2014, the Board of Veteran’s Appeals heard a benefits claim in which the veteran alleged that his coronary artery disease was connected to his service at Camp Lejeune and exposure to the contaminated water at the base (BVA Docket # 11-32 299). The BVA examined the available evidence and concluded that “the evidence of record is in equipoise” and, therefore, it was “at least as likely as not” that the coronary artery disease was related to the Camp Lejeune water.
This decision from the Appeal Board is significant because it involved an application of the same “equipoise” causation standard that has been adopted for establishing causation in claims brought under the CLJA. This decision is therefore is good indication of how heart defect cases filed under the CLJA will likely be resolved.
About Heart Defects
Congenital heart defects are internal problems caused by abnormal formation of the heart, blood vessels, or other parts of the cardiovascular system. There are 18 different types of congenital heart defects.
The types of heart defects that have been observed in areas with contaminated water with the chemical that were at Lejeune vary depending on the specific contaminant and the population being studied.
Who is Eligible to File a Camp Lejeune Heart Defect Lawsuit?
Under a new federal law called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), any individual who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune for at least 1 month between 1953 and 1987 the right to bring a civil lawsuit against the government for harm caused by the toxic water at Lejeune. To be eligible to file a CLJA claim you must be able to show that you meet this residence or employment eligibility criteria and prove that you were subsequently diagnosed with a heart defect.
Congenital heart defects are caused by in utero exposure to the chemicals in the Camp Lejeune water. Therefore, eligible claimants would need to show that their mother lived at Camp Lejeune or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days during the time that she was pregnant.
Settlement Payouts for a Camp Lejeune Heart Defect Lawsuit
Our lawyers estimate that a successful Camp Lejeune lawsuit involving heart defects could have an average settlement payout of around $205,000 and $500,000. This is on the middle to low end of Camp Lejeune settlement amount our lawyers have projected.
The reason for the lower estimated payouts is that heart defects do not have the same epidemiological evidence as some of the other diseases from contaminated water. Also, heart defects are not necessarily fatal like some of the cancers that have been linked to the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Heart Defect Case
If you were born with a congenital heart defect that may have been caused by the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, contact our office today to see if you may be eligible to file a claim. Call 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.