Camp Lejeune Marines, veterans and their families may have their day in court after all.
And it comes from the very state whose law, bolstered by a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, would have kept them from seeking damages over contaminated groundwater.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill into law that clarifies the legislature’s original intent behind the state’s 10-year “statute of repose.”
The bill, SB574, says the true intent of the original legislation was meant to apply to product liability lawsuits and was never meant to be used to keep residents from suing companies or other parties over exposure to groundwater contamination.
In a statement released by the governor’s office, McCrory said, “This solution is a testament to our ability in state government to work together in a bipartisan manner to respond swiftly to citizens’ needs. I would like to thank the members of the General Assembly for taking quick action to address the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.”
On June 9, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against homeowners in North Carolina, saying they cannot sue a company for contaminating their drinking water because the state’s deadline for bringing the suit had passed. That ruling meant those homeowners could recover damages for being exposed to toxic waste. And even though that particular case was based in Asheville, N.C., it was seen as having a direct effect on any plaintiffs who may choose to file for damages over contaminated water at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
Based on that ruling, the Obama administration had asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to dismiss a lawsuit over the toxic water at Camp Lejeune, which affected Marines and their families between 1957 and 1987.
North Carolina’s SB574 means that the more than 1 million affected at Camp Lejeune may seek damages against the company or the government for the hundreds of toxic wells and seepage on the base that the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes as responsible for these diseases and conditions:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
Congress passed a law in 2012 providing for health care benefits for Marines and their families, but no provision was made for compensation or disability benefits.