Our lawyers are handling Camp Lejeune cancer lawsuits in all 50 states. This page is about a particular type of cancer: multiple myeloma. We look at how multiple myeloma is linked to contaminated water and we speculate about potential settlement amounts for these cancer lawsuits.
From the 1950s thru the late 1980s the water supply at the USMC base, Camp Lejeune in North Carolina was contaminated with alarmingly high levels of chemical solvents that have been linked to cancer. In the years since this was discovered, numerous public health studies have been done to determine what this contamination did to the health of the estimated 1 million people that were exposed to the water at Camp Lejeune.
These studies have identified clear evidence that exposure to the contaminated water at Lejeune caused an increased risk of multiple myeloma and other types of blood cancers. A new federal law is about to be passed by Congress that will give Camp Lejeune victims the right to bring civil lawsuits and get compensation.
History of Lejeune Water Supply
Camp Lejeune is a huge Marine Corps training facility and base located near Wilmington, North Carolina. The base has been used by the Marine Corps since WWII. It contains barracks, family housing, schools, and other facilities and at any given time it is home to approximately 54,000 people.
For about 34 years, from August 1953 to December 1987, the drinking water supplied to Camp Lejeune residents and employees was corrupted with dangerously high levels of the chlorinated solvents perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). The amount of PCE and TCE in the Lejeune water system was several thousand times above the maximum safe limits.
Studies have estimated that roughly 1 million people, including Marine personnel, families, and civilian employees, were exposed to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune over the years.
Health Studies Link Multiple Myeloma to Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
When the full extent of the water contamination at Camp Lejeune (and the apparent cover-up by the USMC) became public, the government initiated several massive public health studies. The goal of these studies was to figure out what impact the contaminated water at Lejeune had on the long-term health of those who were exposed to it.
Since 1991, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the CDC, has been performing extensive research and health assessments of Camp Lejeune. This included advanced modeling of the estimated contamination levels in the Lejeune water systems going back decades.
The contamination and exposure modeling data compiled by the ATSDR has been utilized in epidemiologic studies of health effects on Camp Lejeune employees and residents. Various health outcome “endpoints” have been examined in these studies, including birth defects, adverse birth outcomes, cancer, and mortality rates.
One of the first major studies on the health impact of the Lejeune water 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 sufficient evidence of an association between the Lejeune water and increased rates of blood cancers, specifically multiple myeloma.
In 2012, the Veteran’s Administration (VA) formed a committee (the “VA Committee”) of leading experts to review the available evidence and provide clinical guidance to the VA on what diseases and health conditions can be linked to the Lejeune water contamination. The VA Committee published official Clinical Guidance which conclusively found that multiple myeloma was one of 8 diseases that was connected to the water contamination at Lejeune.
In 2014, the ATSDR published the results of its long-term mortality and cancer incidence study for the Camp Lejeune population (the “ATSDR Study”). Just like the previous reports, the ATSDR study concluded that exposure to the Camp Lejeune water caused a significant increase in the rate of multiple myeloma among Lejeune residents and employees.
Additional Studies Linking Multiple Myeloma to Solvents
In the public health studies on the Camp Lejeune population, there has been at least 1 other scientific study on the link between occupational exposure to chlorinated solvents (the type of chemicals in the Lejeune water) and multiple myeloma. In 2011 a study was published by Laura S. Gold, et al. in Occupational & Environmental Medicine entitled The Relationship between Multiple Myeloma and Occupational Exposure to Six Chlorinated Solvents (the “Gold Study”).
The Gold Study looked at occupational exposure to TCE and PCE, primarily in the commercial dry cleaning industry. It found that exposure to these solvents resulted in significantly elevated risks for multiple myeloma compared to the general population. The Gold study concluded that there was clear causation between the category of chemicals known as organic solvents (or an association between an occupation or industry where organic solvents are commonly used) and an elevated risk of the occurrence or increased mortality from multiple myeloma.
About Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is a comparatively rare form of blood cancer that originates in white blood cells known as plasma cells. Plasma cells defend the body from infection by creating antibodies to identify and eliminate germs and other foreign invaders.
With multiple myeloma, cancerous plasma cells begin to build up in the bone marrow and they eventually displace the normal, healthy blood cells and prevent them from creating antibodies. Instead, the cancerous plasma cells produce abnormal proteins that cause numerous complications.
Multiple myeloma is not a very common type of cancer. Only about 34,000 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. The lifetime risk of getting multiple myeloma is less than 1%, putting it in the bottom 10% in terms of the highest-risk cancer types. Like all blood cancer, treatment options for multiple myeloma are limited to chemotherapy. The overall 5-year survival rate for multiple myeloma is 55%.
New Law to Allow Camp Lejeune Claims for Multiple Myeloma
Victims of the water contamination tragedy at Camp Lejeune have previously been blocked from bringing civil tort lawsuits for their injuries because of a strict statute of repose law in North Carolina. Various veterans’ groups have successfully lobbied Congress to address this injustice. Lawmakers are now on the verge of enacting a new federal law that will enable Camp Lejeune victims the right to bring claims for their injuries.
The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), which is a component of a larger veteran benefits bill called the Honoring Our Pact Act (PACT Act), was initially passed by the House in March. In June 2022, the Senate passed an amended version of the bill and sent it back to the House for approval.
The House objected to certain tax provisions that the Senate added to the bill, so on July 13 the House passed a revised version of the Senate bill. Now the bill is back to the Senate for approval again. The PACT Act is widely supported by both parties and it is expected to pass before the mid-term elections.
When the PACT Act (and CLJA) eventually becomes law, Camp Lejeune water victims will have a window of at least 2-years to file tort lawsuits for injuries related to the water contamination. The law expressly eliminates the North Carolina statute of repose as a legal barrier.
Under the CLJA, claimants will have the burden of proving their claims. However, the CLJA adopts a lowered standard of proof for causation. Section (b)(2) of the CLJA allows plaintiffs to 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 multiple myeloma claims under the CLJA. This means that individuals who bring claims under the CLJA for multiple myeloma may not need to present expert evidence in support of causation.
Projected Camp Lejeune Multiple Myeloma Settlement Amounts?
It is too early to know exactly how much Camp Lejeune multiple myeloma cases under the CLJA could be worth. When the CLJA is eventually passed, there will be many variables that could significantly impact the Camp Lejeune multiple myeloma settlement amounts on a case-by-case basis. So it is not a one-size-fits-all settlement value. Instead multiple myeloma payouts will be calibrated based on a host of facts that include age, final outcome, length of time at Camp Lejeune, and so forth.
Despite these limitations, we can still offer a reasonably reliable estimate of the potential settlement value of Camp Lejeune multiple myeloma lawsuits by looking at settlements and verdicts for multiple myeloma in prior tort cases, such as medical malpractice. Based on this, we believe that Camp Lejeune multiple myeloma cases under the CLJA could have an average amount between $140,000 and $325,000.
Is multiple myeloma linked to Camp Lejeune water contamination?
Yes. Higher rates of multiple myeloma and other blood cancers have been linked to exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Residents and employees at Lejeune have a significantly higher rate of multiple myeloma compared to the general population.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Multiple Myeloma Lawsuit
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and were subsequently diagnosed with multiple myeloma, call us today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation.