Dead on Arrival: Why Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Settlement Efforts Are Failing

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The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) passed in 2022 encouraged one million victims to seek fair compensation for their injuries. Most had suffered life-threatening conditions like cancer after consuming the toxic waters of the North Carolina Marine Corps Base.

Originally, the Bill established a statute of limitations of two years for an administrative claim filing. If no resolution was made, the respective claimants could file a lawsuit. With Q1 of 2024 approaching its end, there are only five months before the litigation’s filing window will close.

As expected, the claim numbers have easily crossed the 100,000 mark. Since the Camp Lejeune lawsuit is among the largest mass torts in US history, one would expect quick settlements by now. Though the process has finally started, the outcome is far from desirable.

In this article, we will discuss why the government’s efforts to settle Camp Lejeune’s claims are failing to work.

The Delays Experienced So Far

The Camp Lejeune litigation has ebbed and flowed quite unnaturally from the very beginning. TorHoerman Law states that claims were made with the Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) soon after the CLJA was passed.

For months, things were allowed to remain stagnant. When questioned about the delays, the Navy’s attorney only had staffing and funding shortages to blame. It is undoubtedly true that reviewing claims that involve decades-long documents and records is a tedious task.

However, the plaintiff’s counsel was certain that this was merely the Navy’s attempt to avoid a fair Camp Lejeune payout. The scenario back then did beg the question that if the Navy was overwhelmed with a few thousand claims, how would they tackle the litigation once it has grown to over 100,000 cases?

The Rise and Fall of the Elective Option

The Navy was feeling the full force of aggression and pressure built by the plaintiff’s counsel. In September 2023, it came up with something innovative, namely, the Elective Option. It was a voluntary process of settling Camp Lejeune qualifying claims under the CLJA.

At the time of its introduction, the Elective Option was presented as a solution to streamline and accelerate the settlement process. Essentially, there were numerous claimants on the verge of succumbing to their injuries or age. The Navy made an effort to pacify their fury over delayed justice with the Elective Option.

Regardless of the delays and suspicious motives, what mattered the most was fair compensation. Even now, that does not seem to have happened. Firstly, it did not take long for the plaintiff’s side to figure out that this option was only suitable for some claimants – those with complex cases.

In other words, cases where it would be difficult to establish a direct link between the Camp’s toxic waters and the claimant’s injuries would benefit from the Elective Option. Otherwise, those with severe multiple injuries and straightforward cases would only lose money.

Did some claimants accept the compensation offered under this program? Yes, but a few tens or even hundreds do not justify the continuation of this process. Also, let’s not forget that most will convert into lawsuits within six months.

In February 2024, 48 qualifying cases were given settlement offers. Out of these, 17 were accepted, 8 expired, 7 were turned down, and 16 awaited responses. Another group of 59 cases was chosen in March. Out of these, 25 were accepted, 2 were rejected, and 24 expired (which leaves us with 8 pending cases).

At this rate, it stands to reason that there is no way the Navy will be able to resolve 170,000 claims even within a few years. With a growing recognition that settlement efforts must hasten, a joint proposal for a Special Settlement Master has been made.

Stipulation Designed to Streamline the Efforts

Given the position where the Camp Lejeune litigation stands today, it is clear that both sides must prepare for bench trials. Certain rules have been established to make the pretrial discovery process more efficient. The following key points form a part of the Case Management Order #11 –

  • The government is permitted to conduct independent medical examinations on plaintiffs already assessed by a medical examiner for expert testimony. This process will be skipped for those who do not use their examinations for an expert witness.
  •  The plaintiff’s side has agreed to notify the government in advance if it plans on conducting medical examinations for any of the clients’ expert witnesses.
  • The agreement does not cover any regular ongoing treatments or consultations with non-testifying experts.
  • The Order’s agreement extends to any physical or mental examinations of the plaintiff, as long as they are conducted for an expert testimony.

This stipulation was designed to reduce the total number of medical examinations and expert witnesses, thereby streamlining the process. Attorneys believe that it would help them get more cases to trial. 

The focus is not on the Elective Option (which seems to be dead on arrival) but on securing fair compensation in the upcoming trials.

Subhajit Khara
Subhajit Kharahttps://www.embraceom.com/
Subhajit Khara is an Electronics & Communication engineer who has found his passion in the world of writing. With a background in technology and a knack for creativity, he has become a proficient content writer and blogger. His expertise lies in crafting engaging articles on a variety of topics, including tech, lifestyle, and home decoration.
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