The Camp Lejeune Justice Act (CLJA) requires that each claim be filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Here, four separate federal judges are presiding over the litigation, including Richard E. Myers II, Terrence W. Boyle, Louise W. Flanagan and James C. Dever III. To further manage and streamline claims, court-appointed lead attorneys will conduct discovery into common issues in the claims and coordinate pretrial proceedings. The judges have set the first status conference with attorneys on October 30, 2023. The Judges have commented that there may be bi-monthly meetings in order to properly manage the complex litigation. The order states in pertinent part, “Until further notice from the court, Plaintiffs’ Lead Counsel, the Government Liaison, CoLead Counsel, Liaison or their designees shall appear in person. Other counsel may attend by telephone; dial-in information shall be provided by later order.
Camp Lejeune Master Complaint
The Master Complaint comprising 45 pages was filed on October 6. It includes the following:
- A detailed history of water contamination at Camp Lejeune, described by scientists as the worst public drinking water contamination crisis in U.S. history. background on the problems,
- A Camp Lejeune water contamination map, outlining various distribution systems that sent toxic chemicals throughout the base, including Hadnot Point, Holcomb Boulevard and Tarawa Terrace.
- An outline of the various chemical and contaminants in the water, which could be blamed for causing plaintiffs’ Camp Lejeune injuries.
The Camp Lejeune Case Management Order which requested the submission of a Master Complaint also contains a thorough outline for tentative bellwether trials. The order was filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of North Carolina Southern Division, No. 7:23-CV-897.
According to the court document, all individual Plaintiffs who wish to pursue their CLJA action in accordance with this order shall use the Short Form Complaint to pursue their CLJA actions. This process will allow the Parties to assess which portions of the Master Complaint apply in each individual CLJA action.
The judge handling pending Camp Lejeune cases has divided the claims into three separate tracks (Track 1, 2, or 3) for purposes of pre-trial discovery and eventual trial.
Cases in Track 1 include plaintiffs diagnosed with:
- Liver cancer,
- Bladder cancer,
- Kidney cancer,
- Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and
- Parkinson's disease.
Tier 2 Illnesses:
- Multiple Myeloma
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Kidney Disease/End-Stage Renal Disease
- Systemic Sclerosis/Systemic Scleroderma
- Less than 1 year
- One to 5 years
- More than 5 years
|Duration of Exposure||Tier 1 Illness||Tier 2 Illness|
|Under 1 Year||$150,000||$100,000|
|Over 5 Years||$450,000||$400,000|
From the case management order:
The numerous Camp Lejeune Justice Act ("CLJA") actions filed in this Court "involve common question[s]of law or fact” whether filed before today or after today. Determining common questions of fact or law shall not operate to deny any Party the opportunity to raise nonrepetitive issues that uniquely affect each Party in individual CLJA actions.
Stipulations regarding certain issues will streamline the discovery process and the overall efficiency of the CLJA litigation. To this end, the Court orders the Lead Counsel, the Government Liaison, or their designees to meet and confer with counsel for Defendant at least on a monthly basis regarding stipulations and to report the progress on stipulations at each status conference to the Court.
Discovery and Trial Plan
The Court expects the Parties to conduct discovery efficiently. The Court recognizes the significant burden created by the number of CLJA actions already filed, the anticipated additional filings, and the costs that Plaintiffs'Leadership must advance to fulfill its responsibilities. The Court also recognizes that there are issues common to all CLJA Plaintiffs, and Plaintiffs' Leadership is permitted to engage in general discovery upon entry of this Order.
Procedures for Track 1 Illnesses
The Discovery Pool for Track 1 shall be composed of CLJA actions in which the Plaintiffs allege that they contracted: (1) bladder cancer, (2) kidney cancer, (3) leukemia, (4) Parkinson's disease, or (5) non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as a result of exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune. The selection of these actions does not reflect any assessment of the merits of these or other CLJA actions. Rather, the selection focuses on illnesses for which early trials may help to promote early resolution for common illnesses.
To be eligible for selection in the Track 1 Discovery Pool, a Plaintiff:
(1) must have filed his or her Short Form complaint within 30 days of the filing of the Master Complaint;
(2) not opted out of the Discovery Pool as discussed below.
Staging discovery and trials by ''tracks" of illnesses is the most efficient way to advance the CLJA litigation and support a global resolution of CLJA claims.
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At the appropriate time, the Court and the Parties shall discuss the selection of a certain Track 1 Discovery Plaintiff or Plaintiffs for a Bellwether trial or trials. The Parties should be prepared to commence trials for the Track 1 Discovery Plaintiffs in 2024. The Camp Lejeune litigation is expected to become one of the largest mass torts in U.S. history before the end of 2024.