Our lawyers handle Camp Lejeune birth defect lawsuits for victims in all 50 states. Our attorneys also regularly handle birth injury lawsuits. So understand the medicine and the science of these claims. Camp Lejeune birth defect lawsuits will have some of the highest settlement amounts in this litigation.
Birth Defects and Camp Lejeune
In the 1980s, alarmingly high levels of toxic chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were found in the water supply at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base in North Carolina. It was later revealed that Camp Lejeune’s water had been poisoned since 1953. Massive public health investigations were initiated in response to the contamination scandal. These probes aimed to identify what disease and health conditions may have been caused by the Camp Lejeune water contamination.
The public health reviews uncovered compelling evidence that pregnant women exposed to the Camp Lejeune water experienced abnormally high congenital disabilities, such as spina bifida, and adverse birth outcomes. A new federal law is about to go on the books that will give the victims of Camp Lejeune a special right to bring claims for birth defects and other injuries and get financial compensation.
Short History of Camp Lejeune Water Tragedy
Since the early 1940s, the U.S. Marine Corps has maintained a massive base and training facility in North Carolina called Camp Lejeune. Camp Lejeune is like a small community that has been a home and workplace to millions of military families and civilian employees.
Potable water from ground aquifers has been supplied to residents and employees at Camp Lejeune via an independent water system operated by the USMC. New regulations in the 1980s led to the discovery of extremely harmful VOC chemicals, including perchloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), in the water supply at Camp Lejeune.
The concentration level of these carcinogenic chemicals at Lejeune was over 2000 times higher than EPA safety limits. Extensive testing and research eventually concluded that the Camp Lejeune water system had been tainted with these chemicals from 1953 to 1987. It has been estimated that 1.1 million people were exposed, drank, and bathed in this toxic water over 34 years. This included a large number of women who were at Camp Lejeune during pregnancy.
Studies Show Birth Defects Caused by Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The Camp Lejeune water contamination has been the subject of decades of extensive scientific research and studies by different public health agencies, such as the National Research Council (NRC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The 2014 ATSDR Birth Defects and Childhood Cancer Study is the most authoritative source on the association between Camp Lejeune water contamination and birth defects.
The ATSDR study reviewed data for 12,598 children who had in-utero exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, mainly because their mothers lived on base during pregnancy. Detailed records were unavailable before 1968, so the study was limited to children born between 1968 and 1985. ATSDR’s advanced Camp Lejeune water contamination modeling was used to estimate the level of in-utero chemical exposure for each study group member.
The ATSDR study determined that in-utero exposure to the chemicals in the Camp Lejeune water led to an increased risk of birth defects. Camp Lejeune babies in the study were four times more likely to have neural tube birth defects (the most being spina bifida and anencephaly) than the control group.
At a similarly high rate, oral cleft defects were also present in the Camp Lejeune cohort. The exposure modeling data also suggested a clear correlation between birth defect rates and prenatal exposure to the Camp Lejeune water. More exposure to the Lejeune water equaled higher rates of congenital disabilities.
Moreover, the study suggested that these women had a higher risk of experiencing miscarriage or stillbirth and that their children were at increased risk of childhood cancers like leukemia.
VA Committee Finds Birth Defects Associated With Camp Lejeune Water
In 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) formed a special committee of leading experts to provide formal guidance on the administration of health benefits to Camp Lejeune veterans (the “VA Committee). The VA Committee reviewed all of the evidence, including the prior public health studies, and advised the VA on what health conditions were associated with the Camp Lejeune water based on valid evidence.
VA Committee published a report called the VA Clinical Guidance on the Health Conditions Identified by the Camp Lejeune Legislation, which detailed their findings and guidance. The VA Committee guidance report ruled that there was valid and reliable scientific evidence establishing that the Camp Lejeune water contamination caused an increase in neural tube birth defects:
The committee concludes that neural tube defects may have resulted from in-utero exposures to [PCE and TCE] in the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
New Law Will Allow Compensation for Camp Lejeune Birth Defects
For decades, the Camp Lejeune victims have been legally barred from getting compensation from the government. All civil lawsuits brought by Camp Lejeune have previously been dismissed under North Carolina’s strict 10-year statute of repose. Congress is now preparing to create a new federal law that will give victims of Camp Lejeune’s polluted water the ability to settlement compensation.
Last March, the House of Representatives passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA), part of the larger Honoring Our Pact Act (PACT Act), by a sizeable margin. On June 16, 2022, the Senate passed a slightly revised version of the PACT Act, which has now been passed by Congress and signed by the President.
Camp Lejeune water contamination victims can now file tort claims and seek compensation from the government. Under the CLJA, claimants will only need to satisfy a lowered standard of proof for causation. Under this provision in the CLJA, a single, valid study connecting the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries to the Lejeune water contamination will be accepted as evidence of causation.
Based on this reduced evidentiary standard established by the CLJA, presumptive evidence of causation already exists for neural tube birth defects. The 2014 ATSDR study has already determined that the water caused birth defects at Camp Lejeune. The findings of the VA Committee then affirmed this conclusion. Camp Lejeune birth defect claimants will probably just need to prove that they lived or worked at Lejeune during the relevant period to establish their claims.
Settlement Payouts for a Camp Lejeune Birth Defect Lawsuit
Even at this early stage, we can estimate the potential settlement payout value for successful Camp Lejeune birth defect claims based on previous settlements and verdicts in other tort cases involving birth injuries with similar characteristics. Some cases of spina bifida and other neural tube congenital disabilities can cause permanent mental and/or physical disabilities similar to birth injuries, such as cerebral palsy.
We think Camp Lejeune birth defect cases (specifically spina bifida cases) could have a very high settlement value when the birth defect results in severe, permanent disabilities. The potential compensation payouts for these lawsuits could be around $750,000 to $1,500,000 or possibly even higher.
There will be smaller birth injury compensation payouts as well. Camp Lejeune birth defect cases that do not involve significant long-term disabilities will have a lower settlement value in the range of $125,000 to $400,000, depending mainly on the severity and permanency of the condition.
Contact Us About a Camp Lejeune Birth Defect Lawsuit
If you were born with a neural tube birth defect that the contaminated water may have caused at Camp Lejeune, contact our office today at 800-553-8082 to see if you may be eligible to file a claim.