The Dubious Administrative Status of Camp Lejeune Lawsuit: What You Should Know


For three decades (1953 – 1987), residents at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune consumed water contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Even after the source of contamination was found, victims had a long struggle for justice ahead of them.

Under the Obama administration, free healthcare was provided to around one million veterans and their families affected by the Camp’s polluted waters. It was only in August 2022 that President Joe Biden officially signed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA).

This Bill allowed victims to file a lawsuit against the Federal government for their injuries. It’s been over a year since the Act was enforced, and despite overcoming several roadblocks, it looks like plaintiffs still have a long way to go.

In this article, we will discuss the dubious administrative status of the Camp Lejeune lawsuit in detail.


The Navy JAG’s Proposed Elective Option

Initially, the Navy had plenty of excuses as to why the litigation progressed at a snail’s pace, including staffing and funding shortages. The plaintiff’s counsel saw this as a deliberate move which garnered much criticism.

Around September 2023, the sprawling litigation appeared to make some ‘suspiciously’ swift progress as the Navy proposed the elective settlement option. It could best be described as a fast-track settlement or rough justice. This is because the Camp Lejeune compensation via this option was too low (for most plaintiffs).

It only made sense in cases with limited exposure or where a direct link (between the Camp’s waters and injury) was difficult to establish. The government planned to introduce the elective settlement option and reduce many administrative claims.

However, given the fact pattern required to meet the option’s criteria, this seemed like a far-fetched dream.

The Navy’s Attempts to Block Jury Trials and Reduce Settlement Payouts

The proposed elective option dished out by the Navy ran counterproductive to its aim of reducing claim numbers. Attorneys were surprised to discover that numerous plaintiffs were receptive to fast-track compensation. Perhaps this had much to do with the latency period, given the tedious timeline for justice.

Since that didn’t work out as planned, the Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) had another idea. It made desperate attempts to block a jury trial for the plaintiffs. The reason cited by the Navy was that the CLJA does not explicitly grant the right to jury trials.

This Act was compared to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), under which plaintiffs may sue the government but are generally not granted the right to trial. According to TorHoerman Law, most plaintiffs suffered from severe injuries like cancers of the lungs and bladder, birth defects, aplastic anemia, renal toxicity, etc.

A jury trial would ensure that the jurors’ range of personal experiences, perspectives, and knowledge (that the judge may lack) would enable a fairer settlement. It could be a method of peaceful resolution, but the Navy’s attempts to block it are self-explanatory.


The Track 2 Trial Procedure and Demands for Jury Trial

During the mid-year, the court looked into the health conditions included as a part of Track 1 trials (likely to be settled first). In November 2023, the same was done for Track 2 trials. The plaintiff’s counsel submitted a Case Management Order with the following proposals –

  • Specific illnesses to be a part of Track 2, including multiple myeloma, kidney disease, liver cancer, aplastic anemia, and scleroderma/sclerosis.
  • The plaintiff’s counsel has disagreed with the Navy’s proposed conditions that the injuries included in Track 2 have a weaker link with the Camp’s waters. It believes that this move is purely about scaring plaintiffs into accepting the elective option.
  • The plaintiff’s team has proposed that Track 2’s procedure be similar to Track 1’s, focusing on cost-effectiveness and efficiency.
  • The plaintiff’s legal team has argued that the Navy’s elective option offered settlements for all illnesses except for aplastic anemia. Therefore, focusing on these illnesses would ensure a more efficient discovery process.

This month has been all about demanding a jury trial. The plaintiff’s counsel has argued that the CLJA was enforced as a response to decades of government deception. It allows the plaintiffs the right to a jury trial.

In summation, the current administrative status of the Camp Lejeune litigation is still hanging by a thread. It is unlikely that the situation will grow any more precarious provided the government gives up its tactics of stalling the litigation’s progress.

Initially (when the CLJA was passed), the Federal government and the Department of Defense (DOJ) acknowledged the right to a jury trial. However, the parties’ stance drastically keeps changing to suit their agenda.

The plaintiff’s counsel has requested the court to reject the Navy’s attempts to block jury trials. Only time will reveal whether justice is served in a fair manner.