Our lawyers are representing victims seeking to file a Camp Lejeune scleroderma lawsuit in all 50 states.
This post will look at the evidence linking scleroderma to the Camp Lejeune water supply and the potential settlement amounts for a scleroderma disease lawsuit.
Scleroderma lawsuits from Camp Lejeune will be strong because the disease is strongly linked to trichloroethylene (“TCE”), a contaminant that is well known to have infiltrated the water supply at Camp Lejeune.
If you have scleroderma or other autoimmune disease and spent at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987, call our legal team today at 800-553-8082 or get a free online no-obligation consultation to discuss your options of filing a Camp Lejeune lawsuit.
Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Killed Soldiers and Their Families
The United States Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is located in North Carolina. It is one of the Marine Corps’ largest bases and training facilities and it has been in continuous use since 1942. Camp Lejeune accommodates an on-base resident population of 50,000, plus hundreds of civilian employees who work there.
Beginning in the early 1950s, improper disposal of chemicals by a dry-cleaning company and by the Marine Corps caused the drinking water supply at Camp Lejeune to become toxic and harmful to drink or otherwise use. This contamination lasted until the later 1980s and during that time an estimated 1.1 million people (including Marines, families, and employees) were unexposed to the toxic water.
The Lejeune water was contaminated by two volatile organic compounds (VOCs): perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE). These harmful chemicals were found in the Lejeune water at several thousand times above the maximum levels allowable under health and safety standards.
Scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis, morphea, and Erasmus syndrome) is a rare type of autoimmune skin disease in which the skin abnormally tightens and hardens. It is characterized by alterations of the microvasculature and by massive deposition of collagen and other matrix substances in the connective tissue.
Studies are all over the map when it comes to the incidence of systemic sclerosis. Estimates range from 0.6 to 122 cases per million per year. Prevalence of the disease has been reported to range from 7 to 489 cases per million. But no matter how you slice it, scleroderma is a rare disease. Most people get it in the 40s and 50s but many Camp Lejeune scleroderma claims involve much younger victims.
Scleroderma can eventually cause problems and complications with the blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, and major organs. The thickening and hardening of the skin that characterizes scleroderma usually begins in the hands, fingers, feet, and face. In some cases, it will extend upwards to the arms and abdominal area. Impacted skin will often appear lighter in color and shiny.
Skin tightening can cause the contraction of blood vessels in the toes and fingers. Scleroderma can also cause chronic digestive tract problems, including bloating, heartburn, and general intestinal distress. Scleroderma can also cause scarring of the lung tissue resulting in shortness of breath. It also causes pulmonary hypertension which can lead to heart failure.
You often hear the term “scleroderma-like” illnesses. Scleroderma-like illnesses are a group of autoimmune illnesses both environmental or occupationally-related like we see with scleroderma from Camp Lejeune as well as other illnesses unrelated to the environment that have as a common feature skin thickening or scleroderma.
Classifications of Scleroderma
The specific classification of systemic sclerosis will impact settlement amounts. Scleroderma can be classified as limited or diffuse depending on the extent of skin involvement. Some patients with limited systemic sclerosis have CREST syndrome (calcinosis cutis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, esophageal dysfunction, sclerodactyly, and telangiectasia). Raynaud’s phenomenon – excessive contraction of the small blood vessels in the fingers and toes from the cold – is a hallmark of scleroderma.
Pulmonary and cardiac manifestations of systemic sclerosis are something lawyers are seeing from Camp Lejeune. These manifestations include interstitial lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, pleuritis, pleural effusion, and aspiration pneumonia.
Scleroderma renal crisis is also a concern. This is characterized by an abrupt rise in the patient’s blood pressure and rapidly progressive renal failure.
Link Between Scleroderma and Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune
The links between autoimmune disease and contaminated water, particuarly trichloroethylene (TCE) that was ubitquitous at Camp Lejeuene, was discovered by studies who were exposed to these toxins at work. Going back to the 1970s, studies linked sometimes fatal systemic or localized sclerosis or diffuse fasciitis with industrial TCE exposure. Scleroderma, also known as systemic sclerosis, is an autoimmune disease. What happens with scleroderma is the autoimmune response targets connective tissue of the skin, internal organs and the walls of blood vessels.
Case case control studies of men or women with scleroderma identified TCE exposure in occupational or hobby settings as a likely risk factor. The early studies stemmed from the physical skin manifestations caused by, again, occupational exposure to TCE. Workers would sometimes degrease engine parts by bare-handed dipping into barrels of TCE.
The CDC and other health agencies have conducted major studies on the health consequences of the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune for base residents and employees. Health information was obtained from thousands of former Marines and civilians who either worked or lived at Camp Lejeune during the relevant time frame. This was compared to similar health information for a control group of residents and employees from another Marine base that had clean water.
The results of this ATSDR Study indicated that the Camp Lejeune population displayed significantly higher rates of scleroderma compared to the control group from Camp Pendleton. The data also indicated a direct correlation between the extent of exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune and the rate of scleroderma.
Exposure to solvents – like the kind that came from off-site ABC Dry Cleaners – is a cause of systemic sclerosis. There is an almost threefold increased risk of systemic sclerosis from exposure to solvents based on epidemiologic studies.
TCE as a Cause of Scleroderma
Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a brutally volatile solvent with a vapor pressure of 57.8 mm of mercury at ambient conditions. TCE has been reported to have a half-life in wastewater of about 300 days. This means it had a long life to contaminate Camp Lejeune victims who are drinking or bathing in the contaminated water. TCE can also convert to vinyl chloride, another poison in the water at Lejeune.
Several epidemiological studies unrelated to Camp Lejeune have found occupational exposure to organic solvents such as TCE (one of the chemicals in the Lejeune water) is associated with systemic scleroderma. These studies included a major meta-analysis conducted by a research team at the Environmental Protection Agency, which reported a causal relationship between scleroderma and occupational TCE exposure.
Scleroderma is not the only autoimmune disease associated with toxic water contaminated with TCE exposure in humans. One study of people living near a TCE-contaminated Superfund Site in New York demonstrated an increased prevalence of the autoimmune disease primary biliary cirrhosis. Another 25-year-old study of occupational exposure to TCE demonstrated increased urine levels of glucosaminidase, a marker of autoimmune lupus nephritis. Our lawyers are getting a lot of calls from veterans claiming viral hepatitis is worsened by TCE exposure and there is science supporting their claims.
VA Recognizes Scleroderma as Related to Camp Lejeune
Scleroderma is not one of the handful of diseases that the VA has deemed to be presumptively related to the toxic Camp Lejeune water. However, the VA has recognized that there is some evidence showing that scleroderma may be connected to exposure to the Camp Lejeune water supply.
In at least one case in 2015 (Docket No. 12-05 645), the VA Appeal Board determined that a veteran’s scleroderma was the result of his exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Who is Eligible to Bring a Camp Lejeune Scleroderma Lawsuit?
Thanks to a federal recently passed by Congress, anyone who worked or lived at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 1 month between August 1953 and December 1987 is eligible to bring a civil lawsuit for injuries allegedly caused by exposure to the toxic water at Lejeune during that time.
Anyone who can prove that they lived or worked at Camp Lejeune during this time and was later diagnosed with scleroderma would be eligible to bring a case. If the scleroderma resulted in complications or other medical conditions, compensation can be awarded for those injuries also.
What Settlement Amounts Do Your Lawyers Expect for a Camp Lejeune Scleroderma Lawsuit?
Victims filing a Camp Lejeune scleroderma lawsuit supported by solid proof will be entitled to financial compensation for injuries. Our lawyers believe that successful Camp Lejeune scleroderma cases could have a potential settlement value between $75,000 and $175,000.
Keep in mind these are projections. It is early. Our settlement amount predictions for Camp Lejeune lawsuits will continue to evolve as more Camp Lejeune claims make their way through the system.
The estimated settlement amounts of Lejeune scleroderma cases are at the low end of the range because – as awful as it can be – scleroderma is not as devastating and potentially fatal a disease as cancer, which is the most common harm from the contaminated water our lawyers are seeing. But scleroderma is a difficult illness that is related to the toxic water and the JAG will understand that and make reasonable settlement offers.
Scleroderma can directly lead to more serious health complications such as heart problems and plaintiffs can get compensation for those complications that would likely be higher than the average per person settlement payout projections we have offered here.
Example Scleroderma Lawsuit
Many former residents and employees of Camp Lejeune subsequently developed scleroderma and health conditions from their exposure to the toxic water at the base. The recently filed scleroderma lawsuit of Mason v. United States (7:22-cv-128) is an excellent reminder of the devastating effect that the contaminated water had on the health of those who were exposed to it.
The Mason case is a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Sharon Mason as Personal Representative for the estate of her mother, Rita Roseberry. Rita Roseberry lived at Camp Lejeune while her husband was stationed there for a period of 4-years from 1963 to 1967.
In the years following her time at Lejeune, Ms. Roseberry developed a host of serious health conditions linked to the toxic Camp Lejeune water. Ms. Roseberry was diagnosed with not only scleroderma, but liver disease (which required a liver transplant) kidney failure, and finally breast cancer.
Ms. Roseberry eventually died in 2015 as a result of these various illnesses. The Complaint asserts that there is evidence linking all of her conditions to the toxic water at Camp Lejeune.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Scleroderma Lawsuit
If you lived or worked at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 and were later diagnosed with scleroderma from the bad water on that base, call us today at 800-553-8082 to see if you have a compensation claim. You can also get a free, no-obligation case review online.