President Joseph Biden signed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act into law on August 10, 2022. This law contains a provision referred to as the Camp Lejeune Justice Act that allows for civil suits against the government for injuries related to exposure to dangerous toxins present in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune. The measure may provide legal remedies for over a million individuals, servicemembers and civilians, who were injured due to exposure to this toxic water.
Does this mean victims of Camp Lejeune get an automatic payout?
It is important to note that relief is not automatic. Passage of this law means those who spent 30 days or more at Camp Lejeune from August 1, 1953, through December 21, 1987, can file suit against the government and have the potential to get a payout.
As noted in our previous post, available here, the relief offered by this law extends beyond servicemembers to include their family as well as civilian contractors. Awards can cover the expense of medical treatment and emotional harm. Other damages, such as wrongful death for those who lost a loved one due to illness or injury related to their time spent at Camp Lejeune, are also possible.
Why couldn’t victims file lawsuits in the past?
There were two issues that caused difficulties for victims who wished to pursue a claim. The first was the fact that the U.S. government can often assert immunity in these types of cases — meaning even if the victim had a case, they would not be able to hold the government financially accountable. The second was the fact that that the state where this occurred, North Carolina, has a law that prohibits the ability to a file a claim of this nature after 10 years. This provided a hurdle to claims as the most recent exposure was over two decades ago.
The passage of the PACT Act removed these hurdles. Victims can now pursue legal remedies.
What is the timeline like for this type of mass tort case?
Although each case is unique, the progression for this type of case often starts with an administrative process before the claim can move forward. It can take time to go from an initial claim to getting legal remedies. A failure to follow proper protocol and submit all the correct paperwork can slow down the process. It is wise to have an attorney experienced in this niche area of the law provide guidance to better ensure your rights and remedies are protected.