PPP’s own Steve Kennedy writes for Balls and Strikes that, “Military servicemembers and their families should be able to have juries hear their cases against a government that poisoned them. Yet even after Congress ensured that Camp Lejeune veterans have the right to sue, courts may be already preparing to chip away at it.”
“From 1953 to 1987, hundreds of thousands of U.S. Marines and their families were exposed to toxic chemicals in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. In the years since, the veterans and their families have been developing rare cancers and other diseases associated with exposure to industrial solvents like benzene, trichloroethylene, and perchloroethylene. In addition to poisoning servicemembers on its payroll, the federal government compounded the problem by resisting their fight for justice at every step of the way: first by denying that exposures were related to the increased incidence of disease, and then, even after declaring certain diseases presumptively service-connected for disability claims, by denying claims and applying incorrect effective dates for backdated disability payments.
“Finally, under intense public pressure, Congress passed the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, allowing veterans to bring civil claims against the government to compensate them for their illnesses. Despite providing relief to many veterans, the legislation is unfortunately too little, too late for more of them: One lawyer involved in the litigation estimates that 20 percent of cases are for wrongful death because the veterans have already died of their illnesses. To make matters worse, the government is now arguing in court that the CLJA does not provide for jury trials, worrying that juries will be sympathetic to veterans’ claims. Basically, if the government gets its way, sick veterans and their families will have their cases decided by judges, who some studies have shown award less money in damages than juries do.”