Our attorneys are handling Camp Lejeune leukemia lawsuits in all 50 states. Our lawyers believe that the connection between leukemia and the toxic water at Lejeune is extremely strong and, as we discuss below, why recent developments lead us to believe that the leukemia claims may be among the first in line for a Camp Lejeune settlement.
Our lawyers also speculate on the potential settlement amounts Camp Lejeune leukemia victims and wrongful death family members might recover in these lawsuits.
CAMP LEJEUNE LEUKEMIA LAWSUITS UPDATE
September 2023 – Leukemia Cases Will First In Line For Lejeune Settlements
Based on case management proposals submitted this week by the Lejeune plaintiffs and the government, plaintiffs alleging that they developed leukemia from the contaminated Lejeune water will be included in the first group of cases to be prepared for trial.
The plaintiffs and the government disagreed on exactly what diseases should be included in this first trial group, but leukemia was one of the diseases that they both agreed on.
What does this mean? It means that Camp Lejeune leukemia cases will be prioritized and should be among the first Lejeune cases to get settlement offers. It also means they are Tier 1 cases with the best settlement prospects.
When will we start seeing settlements? Under the plan proposed by the plaintiffs, that could happen within a year.
Camp Lejeune Lawsuit
Over 1 million people who lived or worked at the Camp Lejeune USMC base in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 were exposed to drinking water highly contaminated with chemicals linked to cancer. Scientific studies on the health impact of this contamination have concluded that the chemicals in the Lejeune water put these individuals at a significantly higher risk of leukemia and other blood cancers.
Congress passed a law last year allowing Camp Lejeune victims the right to bring tort lawsuits and get compensation. Our firm currently accepts new cases from individuals who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the relevant period and were subsequently diagnosed with leukemia.
History of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Camp Lejeune is a big Marine Corps base and training facility just north of Wilmington, North Carolina. Lejeune has been used continuously by the Marine Corps since WWII. It features barracks, family housing, schools, and other facilities, and at any given time, it is home to about 50,000 people.
From August 1953 to December 1987, the Camp Lejeune water supplied to residents and employees was poisoned with dangerously high levels of perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which are types of chlorinated solvents. The level of these carcinogenic chemicals in the Lejeune water system was several thousand times above the EPA’s maximum safe limits.
Several factors contributed to the contamination at Camp Lejeune:
- Leaking underground storage tanks: Some of the base’s fuel storage tanks leaked, causing chemicals like benzene, a carcinogen known to cause leukemia, to seep into the groundwater.
- Industrial activities: On-base dry cleaning facilities released tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), both hazardous and potentially carcinogenic, into the environment. These chemicals were also detected in the water supply.
- Waste disposal sites: The improper disposal of hazardous materials, such as paint thinners and solvents, at various sites throughout the base contributed to the contamination.
Residents and personnel on the base used The contaminated water supply for drinking, cooking, and bathing. It was in the 1980s that the extent of the contamination began to be uncovered. In 1982, the Marine Corps discovered that the water at several base locations was contaminated with VOCs, and these wells were subsequently closed.
However, it took several years for the full scope of the problem to be acknowledged and addressed. In the meantime, many residents and personnel at Camp Lejeune were exposed to the contaminated water, potentially leading to various health issues, including cancers, birth defects, and neurological disorders.
Studies have estimated that just over 1 million people, including Marines, families, and civilian employees, lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during the relevant period and were exposed to the contaminated water.
Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. It is caused by the abnormal growth of immature blood cells, which eventually replace normal blood cells in the bone marrow, decreasing the number of healthy blood cells in the body.
There are four main types of leukemia: acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). AML and ALL affect white blood cells, while CML and CLL affect white blood cells and bone marrow.
While the exact causes of leukemia are unknown, certain risk factors have been identified. We are learning more about exposure to certain chemicals and toxins, such as benzene and other solvents, radiation exposure, certain genetic conditions, and a weakened immune system.
Benzene was abundantly present at Lejeune. Benzene is a highly flammable and volatile liquid used to produce various chemicals and products, including plastics, rubber, and gasoline. Exposure to benzene has been associated with an increased risk of developing leukemia (especially chronic myeloid leukemia, or CML), as well as other types of cancer.
While leukemia can be a severe and life-threatening condition, this cancer continues to see incredible advances. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment, many people with leukemia can achieve remission and enjoy a good quality of life. Unfortunately, many veterans and their families at Lejeune suffered long before these more recent advances in diagnosis and treatment.
Studies Link Leukemia to Water Contamination
The discovery of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune prompted a major response from the federal government, which included major studies by several public health agencies. These studies aimed to learn precisely how the contaminated water at Lejeune may have impacted the long-term health of the base residents and employees exposed to it.
The fact that contaminated water causes leukemia is no surprise. Multiple studies have shown that TCE – an abundant toxin at Camp Lejeune – causes a greater incidence of leukemia. Benzene causes leukemia. Children exposed in utero to TCE-contaminated water have demonstrated an increased incidence of lymphocytic leukemias.
ABC Dry Cleaners was the largest source of toxins that contaminated the water at Camp Lejeune. We know there are reports of high rates of leukemia in laundry workers. So it is not a surprise that our Camp Lejeune attorneys are seeing large numbers of leukemia victims and their families calling us to explore a compensation claim.
Studies Link Leukemia to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
Specific studies link leukemia not only to toxic water but also to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the CDC, has been performing extensive research and health assessments of Camp Lejeune since 1991. The ATSDR’s work at Lejeune has included advanced historical modeling of the estimated contamination levels in the Lejeune water systems from the 1940s.
The historical modeling data compiled by the ATSDR has been utilized in epidemiologic studies of the health effects of water contamination on Camp Lejeune employees and residents. These studies have analyzed various health outcome “endpoints,” including birth defects, adverse birth outcomes, cancer, and mortality rates.
One of the first significant reports on the health impact of the Camp Lejeune water contamination came in 2009 when the National Research Council (NRC) released a report entitled Contaminated Water Supplies at Camp Lejeune: Assessing Potential Health Effects (NRC Report). The NRC Report concluded that there was conclusive evidence of an association between exposure to the Lejeune water and increased rates of leukemia and other blood cancers.
Leukemia Is One of Eight Original Linked to Toxic Water at Camp LejeuneAt the direction of Congress in 2012, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) established a committee of leading experts (the “VA Committee”) to review the available evidence and provide the VA with clinical guidance on what diseases could be linked to the Lejeune water contamination. The Clinical Guidance published by the VA Committee listed leukemia as one of eight diseases that was presumptively connected to the water contamination at Lejeune.
In 2014, the ATSDR published its long-term cancer incidence and mortality study results for the Camp Lejeune population (the “ATSDR Study”). Like the previous reports, the ATSDR Study found evidence that exposure to the water at Lejeune caused a significant increase in leukemia among residents and employees.
New Law to Allow Camp Lejeune Claims for Leukemia
Victims of the Camp Lejeune environmental tragedy have never been able to bring successful civil lawsuits for their injuries because of a strict statute of repose law in North Carolina. Thanks to years of lobbying by Veteran advocacy groups, however, Congress is now on the brink of enacting a new federal law that will give Camp Lejeune victims the ability to bring lawsuits and get compensation.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), which has been merged into a larger veteran benefits bill called the Honoring Our Pact Act (PACT Act), was first passed by the House in March. An amended version of the bill was subsequently passed by the Senate in June and sent back to the House for approval.
Victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination have a 2-year window to file civil lawsuits against the government for injuries related to the water contamination than ends on August 10, 2024. The CLJA expressly eliminates the North Carolina statute of repose as a legal barrier.
Easier Causation Standard to Prove Chemicals Caused Leukemia
Plaintiffs under the CLJA will have the burden of proving their claims. However, the CLJA adopts a lowered evidentiary for causation. Section (b)(2) of the CLJA allows plaintiffs to prove causation based on a single epidemiological study:
(2) USE OF STUDIES.—A study conducted on humans or animals, or from an epidemiological study, which ruled out chance and bias with reasonable confidence and which concluded, with sufficient evidence, that exposure to the water described in subsection (a) is one possible cause of the harm, shall be sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof described under paragraph (1).
CLJA § (b)(2). This language indicates that CLJA claimants will not need to retain expert witnesses to support their claims as long as they can cite a study showing that their injury is associated with Camp Lejeune.
The VA Clinical Guidance and the ATSDR Study could potentially be accepted as per se evidence of causation for leukemia claims under the CLJA. This means that individuals who bring claims under the CLJA for leukemia may not need to present expert evidence in support of causation.
What Will Be the Settlement Payouts for a Camp Lejeune Leukemia Lawsuit?
Our lawyers believe that Camp Lejeune leukemia lawsuits under the CLJA could have an average per person settlement payout between $250,000 and $450,000.
There are caveats to this payout projection. It is too early to predict Camp Lejeune leukemia settlement amounts. There are too many unknown variables that could significantly impact the potential value of these claims on a case-by-case basis.
But victims want to know what settlement amounts Camp Lejeune attorneys are projecting. So we are saying the quiet part out loud as long as you appreciate that projected settlement amounts are not guaranteed payouts. The actual compensation could be a lot less… or a lot more.
Our settlement compensation projections are based on expected settlement compensation for Camp Lejeune lawsuits generally and leukemia lawsuits by looking at settlements and verdicts for leukemia in prior tort cases, such as medical malpractice.
Wrongful Death Leukemia Lawsuits
Many Camp Lejeune leukemia lawsuit are wrongful death lawsuits filed by the family because the victim has died. All Camp Lejeune wrongful death claims are filed under the North Carolina Wrongful Death Act is a state law that allows certain individuals to pursue compensation in cases where a person’s death was caused by the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another party. The law outlines the types of damages that can be recovered, who can file a claim, and the timeframe for doing so.
Under the law, only the personal representative or administrator of the deceased person’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. The claim may be for the entire family. We are just talking about who procedurally files the claim for the family.
Damages that can be recovered under the law include compensation for the deceased person’s medical expenses, funeral expenses, and other financial losses, as well as compensation for the pain and suffering experienced by the surviving family members. The North Carolina law allows for the recovery of punitive damages in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly egregious or intentional. But punitive damages are not available but statute under the new law.
How Much Money in Settlement Compensation Will the Government Pay for a Camp Lejeune Leukemia Lawsuit?
Based on values in other leukemia tort cases, Camp Lejeune claims involving leukemia could have a settlement value between $220,000 and $575,000. We are basing this on settlement payouts primarily in medical malpractice cases involving delays in diagnosing leukemia. This leaves a lot room for speculation so these estimates should not be viewed as an exact science.
It is too early to say with much reliability what the average settlement payout value will be for successful Camp Lejeune water contamination claimants in leukemia cases. Our lawyers can use prior verdicts and reported settlements in other tort cases involving leukemia coupled with our understanding of how the Camp Lejeune lawsuits work, to make reasonable settlement compensation projections estimates.
Leukemia Verdicts and Settlements
Below are summaries of reported settlements and verdicts in prior tort cases in which the plaintiff’s primary injury was leukemia. These cases help give us a picture of the potential settlement value of leukemia as an injury.
$620,000 Settlement (Pennsylvania 2022): wrongful death and survival action was brought after the decedent allegedly developed Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) after being exposed to, on a daily or almost daily basis, benzene-containing products, including, but not limited to Liquid Wrench, which was manufactured by the defendant. The case was filed in Philadelphia and eventually settled.
$21,385,00 Verdict (California 2019): the plaintiff were a 2 brothers who both worked for years in a tire manufacturing plant where they were exposed to benzene in a solvent that was made by the defendant. The lawsuit alleged that the plaintiffs developed leukemia from exposure to benzene in the product and a jury in California awarded $21.3 million.
These are just two cases. So you can only read so much into them. But the point is the potential upside of these Camp Lejuene leukemia lawsuits in front of a jury is very high.
Example Camp Lejeune Leukemia Lawsuit
A majority of the Camp Lejeune water contamination victims were Marine Corps veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune. But thousands of civilian employees worked at the base and in many cases, these individuals have much longer periods of exposure to the toxic Lejeune water. This is very evident in the case of Hedges v. United States (7:22-cv-127), which was one of the Camp Lejeune legacy cases filed immediately after the CLJA was signed into law.
The plaintiff, Phoebe Lynn Hedges, was a civilian who worked on the Camp Lejeune base for 36 years from 1977 to 2013. For a period of 16 years, from 1977 to 1993, Ms. Hedges also lived on base at Lejeune. For 10 of the years that Ms. Hedges lived and/or worked at Camp Lejeune, she was regularly exposed to the contaminated water on the base.
Leukemia Caused by 10-Year Exposure to Toxic Lejeune Water
In 2013, Ms. Hedges was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. The Complaint asserts that the “causal relationship between Plaintiff’s exposure to water at Camp Lejeune and her diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia is as least as likely as not.” Blood cancers, such as leukemia, are one of the diseases linked to the toxic Camp Lejeune water. Leukemia is one of the conditions that the VA has considered “presumptively related” to the Camp Lejeune water.
This would be what Camp Lejeune lawyers would consider a “top tier” case for several reasons. First, the extent of the plaintiff’s exposure to the contaminated Camp Lejeune water is much more extensive than in most CLJA cases. Ms. Hedges lived and worked at Camp Lejeune for a decade beginning at the peak of the contamination levels in the late 1970s.
Second, leukemia is one of the diseases linked to the toxic Camp Lejeune water. The VA has considered leukemia “presumptively related” to the Camp Lejeune water. The combination of one of the presumptive diseases and a 10-year history of exposure to the contaminated water makes these very strong and ripe for a potential early settlement.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Leukemia Lawsuit
If you served, lived, or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and were later diagnosed with leukemia, contact us today at 800-553-8082 or get a no-obligation case review online.