Our law firm is handling Camp Lejeune water contamination lawsuits for victims in all 50 states. This page focus on Camp Lejeune lung cancer lawsuits.
Our lawyers have made a special page for Camp Lejeune lung cancer lawsuits and their settlement value. What we have recently learned (October 2022) is that our law firm has more lung cancer cases than any other type of Camp Lejeune claim other than Parkinson’s disease.
Camp Lejeune Lung Cancer Lawsuits
The drinking water supply at the Camp Lejeune USMC base in North Carolina was contaminated with alarmingly high levels of carcinogenic chemicals from 1953 thru the late 1980s. This government response to this disaster has led to some of the most extensive public health studies ever done to assess how the contaminated water affected the health of the Camp Lejeune residents and employees.
Both public health studies and other scientific research has developed definitive evidence that exposure to the contaminated water at Lejeune led to an increased risk of lung cancer. Congress enacted a new federal law that gives Camp Lejeune victims the right to bring civil claims and get compensation.
History of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Disaster
Camp Lejeune is one of the biggest Marine Corps bases in the country, covering a huge expanse of the North Carolina coastline just north of Wilmington, NC. The base first opened in 1941 and has been used by the USMC continuously since then. Camp Lejeune is not just a military base, but also a small community with schools, hospitals, housing, etc. At any given time about 50,000 people live at Camp Lejeune and thousands more work there every day.
For over 3 decades beginning from August 1953 to December 1987, the drinking water supply at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with incredibly high levels of chemicals known as chlorinated solvents. The 2 industrial solvents in the water at Lejeune were perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). The levels of PCE and TCE in the Lejeune water system were several thousand times over the EPA maximum safe limits.
It has been estimated that over the 34-year period, over 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. These include Marines and their families as well as civilian employees.
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the U.S. with around 230,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Lung cancer accounts for 142,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, more than any other type of cancer.
Lung cancer comes in 2 different types: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. The 5-year survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer (all stages) is 23%. For small-cell cancer, the overall 5-year survival rate is even lower at 7%. This makes lung cancer one of the more dangerous types of cancer.
Lung cancer did not form quickly after toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune. Dozen of years passed for many of our clients who are filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit before diagnosis with lung cancer. So none of our lung cancer client were diagnosed with cancer within a few months of exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune. Such an immediate manifestation is incompatible with contaminated water-induced disease. Because a lung tumor large enough to be discovered would have existed in that patient before exposure.
Is Lung Cancer Linked to the Water at Camp Lejeune?
Yes. Studies conducted by public health agencies have found that exposure to the contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune caused significantly higher rates of lung cancer. There was also a direct correlation between lung cancer rates and exposure levels.
Health Studies Link Lung Cancer to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune has been described as one of the worst environmental disasters in the history of the U.S. military. Public outrage over the incident prompted a number of major public health studies which sought to quantify the negative impact the contaminated water at Lejeune had on the long-term health of those who were exposed to it.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the CDC, has been performing comprehensive research and health studies of Camp Lejeune since 1991. The work of the ATSDR at Lejeune has included advanced modeling of the estimated contamination levels in the Lejeune water systems going back decades.
In 2014, the ATSDR published the results of its long-term mortality and cancer incidence study for the Camp Lejeune personnel and employees (the “ATSDR Study”). The ATSDR study found that Camp Lejeune residents and employees who were exposed to the contaminated water had a substantially higher risk of developing lung cancer and dying from lung cancer compared to a control group.
The ATSDR data also showed that the increased risk of lung cancer was directly correlated to the extent of exposure to contaminated water. Those individuals with the most exposure and use of the contaminated Lejeune water had the highest rates of lung cancer.
The exposure and contamination modeling data compiled by the ATSDR has enabled several epidemiologic studies to be done to evaluate just how much Camp Lejeune employees and residents were harmed by the water. These studies have evaluated various health outcomes including birth defects, adverse birth outcomes, cancer, and mortality rates.
The National Research Council (NRC) released a report in 2009 entitled Contaminated Water Supplies at Camp Lejeune: Assessing Potential Health Effects (NRC Report) which was one of the first major studies on the health impact of the Lejeune water. The NRC Report found sufficient evidence of an association between exposure to the Camp Lejeune water and higher rates of lung cancer.
VA Identifes Lung Cancer at Related to Lejeune
In 2012, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) established a special committee of leading experts (the “VA Committee”) to conduct a detailed review of the available studies and evidence and submit clinical guidance to the VA on what health conditions can be definitively linked to the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The Clinical Guidance reports published by the VA Committee identified lung cancer as 1 of 8 disease that was clearly associated with the water contamination at Lejeune.
There is evidence that high-level exposure to TCE can cause respiratory irritation in the lungs. There appears to be some support for an association between TCE exposure and asthma and possibly bronchitis and pneumonia.
What Caused Lung Cancer at Camp Lejeune?
Specifically. lung cancer at Camp Lejeune was likely caused primarily by trichloroethylene (TCE), a ubiquitous toxin in the water at Camp Lejeune that can cause lung cancer. The maximum level detected in drinking water was 1,400 μg/L in May 1982. The current limit for TCE in drinking water is 5 μg/L. That is 279 times more than the safe limit of TCE.
New Law to Allow Camp Lejeune Claims for Lung Cancer
For a long time, victims of the Camp Lejeune disaster have been precluded from bringing civil tort lawsuits for their injuries because of strict legal restrictions in North Carolina.
To address this obvious injustice, however, veterans’ advocacy groups have successfully lobbied Congress to take action. Lawmakers are now preparing to pass a new federal law that will give Camp Lejeune lung cancer victims the right to bring a lawsuit for the harm done to them or the wrongful death of their loved ones.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), which has been merged into a much larger veteran benefits bill called the Honoring Our Pact Act (PACT Act), was first passed by the House in March. The Senate passed an amended version of the bill in June 2022 and sent it back to the House for approval.
Certain tax provisions that the Senate added to the bill prompted an objection by the House, but on July 13 the House passed a newly revised version of the Senate bill. Now the new version of the bill is back to the Senate for approval again and it is expected to pass before the mid-term elections.
When the CLJA eventually gets signed into law, victims of the Camp Lejeune water pollution will have a 2-year window to file tort lawsuits against the government for injuries related to the water contamination. The law expressly circumvents the North Carolina statute of repose which previously blocked all claims.
Burden of Proof in a Lung Cancer Lawsuit from Camp Lejeune
The CLJA creates a lowered standard of proof for causation. Under § (b)(2) of the CLJA plaintiffs can prove a relationship between the Camp Lejeune water and their alleged injuries 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 appears to suggest 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 lung cancer claims under the CLJA. This means that individuals who bring claims under the CLJA for lung cancer may not need to present expert evidence in support of causation. Below, we talk about why we think this is particuarly important in lung cancer cases involving smolkers. .
Proving Causation Under Equipoise Standard in a Lung Cancer Lawsuit
In a typical personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit, establishing the causation link between the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and lung cancer would be very hard, particularly if any of the plaintiffs was ever a cigarette smoker. There is an abundance of evidence linking smoking to lung cancer. This means that under the normally “more likely than not” evidentiary standard applied in most civil cases, it would be hard to show that the Lejeune water was a “more likely” cause than the plaintiff’s cigarette smoking.
Fortunately, the CLJA adopts a lower evidentiary standard known as “equipoise causation.” Under the equipoise standard, the plaintiff can prove causation simply by showing that the Lejeune water was one of many potential causes of the cancer. This is very significant and the CLJA marks the first time in the history of the U.S. that the equipoise standard has been applied in a tort case. It is particuarly important in a Camp Lejeune lung cancer lawsuit because it may help defeat arguments that smoking was a contributing fact in a way that would not be possible in a normal civil legal claim.
How Much Are Camp Lejeune Lung Cancer Cases Worth?
Nobody knows for certain how much Camp Lejeune claims under the CLJA involving lung cancer could be worth. When the CLJA is eventually enacted, there will be a handful of variables that could significantly impact the potential value of these claims on a case-by-case basis. So if a Camp Lejeune lawyer is making a settlement amount prediction, take that prediction will a few barrels of salt.
But our lawyers can make an educated guess about the potential settlement value of Camp Lejeune lung cancer lawsuits. We look at settlements and verdicts for lung cancer in prior tort cases such as medical malpractice in conjunction with what we know about the political climate of these lawsuits.
So… we believe that Camp Lejeune lung cancer cases under the CLJA could have an average per person settlement amounts between $200,000 and $450,000. Wrongful death claims will likely have higher compensation payouts. Younger patients will certainly see a higher average settlement.
Smokers Will Not Get the Same Compensation
When Camp Lejeune settlement amounts are finally offered, there will likely be a points-type system that calculates settlement values. If the victim had a history of smoking, that will have an impact on the settlement compensation payout for the claim.
But the equipose standard could be a game changer in terms of the difference between smokers and non-smokers when it comes to ultimate settlement amount. Why? The “equipoise” causation standard under CLJA is that plaitniff no longer has the burden of proof. So if there is a tie” it goes to the plaintiff. Juries might say it a toss up as to whether smoking or the contaminated water caused the victim’s lung cancer.
Example Camp Lejeune Lung Cancer Lawsuit
Let’s look at an example Camp Lejeune lung cancer lawsuit: Girard, et al. v. United States (2:22-cv-22). The Girard case presents a group of three plaintiffs alleging that they (or their decedent) developed lung cancer after serving at Camp Lejeune. The three plaintiffs are Elizabeth Girard, Beulah Slesser and Suzanne McCleod. McLeod was bringing a wrongful death case as representative of the estate of Hansell Malone.
The Complaint in Girard does not contain specific factual allegations regarding the exact time frames that the plaintiffs lived or worked at Camp Lejeune. It only alleges that they were there for at least 30 days during the contamination period. It also asserts that each of the plaintiffs (or their decedent) was diagnosed with lung cancer some time after their time at Camp Lejeune.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Lung Cancer Lawsuit
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and were subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer, contact our office today to see if you may be eligible to file a claim. Call 800-553-8052 or get a free online consultation.