Marine veterans in fight for compensation from injuries.
(WASHINGTON, DC) – The Supreme Court in a 7 to 2 decision on June 9th ruled in favor of the CTS Corporation, Ashville, NC. The ruling supported North Carolina’s statue of repose, which establishes a 10 year clock for an injured party to file a lawsuit. After the 10 years, lawsuits alleging injury from the environmental contamination are banned.
This decision appears to slam the shut on toxic tort claims filed by Lejeune Marine veterans and their dependents. The Obama Administration sided with the polluter in a formal friend of the court briefing, effectively telling the Marines get lost:
The United States also has a particular interest in the interaction of CERCLA with the North Carolina statute of repose because of ongoing litigation against the United States under the [Federal Tort Claims Act] involving allegations of contaminated drinking water at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina.
The residents’ lawsuit over the former CTS Corp. land was filed 24 years after the company sold the property. An appellate court said the suit could proceed, on the grounds that the federal statute of limitations preempted the state’s statute of repose. The question facing the Supreme Court was whether North Carolina’s statute of repose was different than the statute of limitations established in the 1980 federal Superfund law, which gives an individual 3 years to file a claim after the injured party becomes aware of the pollution. The court’s majority ruled in favor of the 10 year statue of repose.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “the majority’s ruling allows those responsible for environmental contamination to avoid liability for the latent harm they cause if they are in the minority of states with statutes of repose. The majority’s decision provides an incentive for polluters to conceal the hazards they create until state repose periods run instead of encouraging prompt identification and remediation before harms from toxic exposure occur,” according to a report from John Henry Stam in Bloomberg BNA, dated June 9, 2014.
The Supreme Court’s decision applies to the Defense Department, the biggest owner of contaminated sites in the country with 130 military installations listed on the National Priority List. Camp Lejeune’s in North Carolina makes it a perfect target to apply the state’s statue of repose rule.
The Supreme Court decision is terrible news for those who were injured by environmental pollution at Camp Lejeune and learned of their exposure after the ‘10 year status of repose’ expired. In effect, they have no right to sue the government (the polluter) over any injuries linked to the contaminated well water. The base wells at Camp Lejeune were contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE) and other toxic chemicals from 1957 until 1987. TCE is a known carcinogen but it can take years and often decades before cancer develops in those exposed to the contaminated well water.
Why would the Justice Department support a North Carolina 10 year statue of repose against the interests of veterans and dependents injured by Camp Lejeune’s contaminated well water?
The one thing for sure it wasn’t just a matter of principal. It hard not to believe that the payout of millions for injuries at Camp Lejeune was not involved.
There were an estimated million people exposed to Lejeune’s contaminated wells. Many of these may be dead.
Veterans can’t sue the government for injuries on active duty but their dependents can file a Federal Tort Claim and a lawsuit in Federal District Court. Federal tort claims were filed by hundreds of former dependents who learned of the contamination after the last contaminated well was shut down in 1987. The Navy Judge Advocate General has the tort claims and the good bet is that they are gathering dust in Navy files.
In July 2007, Senator Elizabeth Dole (R, NC) attached an amendment to a broad military spending bill requiring the Secretary of the Navy to locate and notify Marines and civilians who were exposed to the contaminated water in the 1980s.
This story is important because it shows the interests of the Obama Administration is to prevent Camp Lejeune veterans and dependents from having their day in court, even if it means supporting an obscure statue in North Carolina.
The DOJ didn’t have to submit a friend of the court briefing to the Supreme Court. The 12 or 13 consolidated lawsuits of Lejeune veterans and dependents now on hold at the appellate level in Georgia don’t stand a chance after the Supreme Court decision.
This decision may give the Navy JAG a ‘legal basis’ for denying all of the Lejeune tort claims now gathering dust in their files.
Camp Lejeune veterans are not the only ones exposed to deadly contaminants. The EPA Superfund database lists the Contaminants of Concern or COCs found in the soil, groundwater and air and the health effects of exposure at 130 military installations. COCs are the chemical substances found at the site that pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. The EPA database links the health effects of exposure to COCs to a database maintained by the Agency for Toxic Substance Disease Registry (ATSDR).
With the exception of Camp Lejeune, the government has no legal requirement to notify veterans and their dependents of exposure to environmental pollution and has taken no action to notify anyone who was stationed at any of the following military installations that are listed among the most hazardous environmental sites in the country.
US Air Force
Air Force Plant No.4 (General Dynamics) Fort Worth TX Air Force Plant 85 Columbus OH Air Force Plant PJKS Littleton CO American Lake Gardens/McChord AFB Tacoma WA Andersen Air Force Base Yigo GU Andrews Air Force Base Andrews Air Force Base MD Arnold Engineering Development Center (USAF) Tullahoma/Manchester TN Brandywine DRMO Brandywine MD Castle Air Force Base (6 Areas) Merced CA Chanute Air Force Base Rantoul IL Dover Air Force Base Dover DE Edwards Air Force Base Edwards AFB CA Eielson Air Force Base Fairbanks AK Ellsworth Air Force Base Ellsworth AFB SD Elmendorf Air Force Base Anchorage AK F.E. Warren Air Force Base Cheyenne WY Fairchild Air Force Base (4 Waste Areas) Spokane WA George Air Force Base Victorville CA Griffiss Air Force Base (11 Areas) Rome NY Hanscom Field/Hanscom Air Force Base Bedford MA Hill Air Force Base Hill AFB UT Homestead Air Force Base Homestead Air Force Base FL Loring Air Force Base Limestone ME Luke Air Force Base Glendale AZ March Air Force Base Riverside CA Mather Air Force Base (AC&W Disposal Site) Mather CA McChord Air Force Base (Wash Rack/Treatment Area) Tacoma WA McClellan Air Force Base (Ground Water Contamination) McClellan AFB CA McGuire Air Force Base No.1 Wrightstown NJ Mountain Home Air Force Base Mountain Home ID Norton Air Force Base (Lndfll No.2) San Bernardino CA Pease Air Force Base Portsmouth/Newington NH Plattsburgh Air Force Base Plattsburgh NY Rickenbacker Air National Guard (USAF) Lockbourne OH Robins Air Force Base (Landfill No.4/Sludge Lagoon) Houston County GA Tinker Air Force Base (Soldier Creek/Building 3001) Oklahoma City OK Travis Air Force Base Travis AFB CA Twin Cities Air Force Reserve Base (Small Arms Range Landfill) Minneapolis MN Tyndall Air Force Base Panama City FL Williams Air Force Base Chandler AZ Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Dayton OH Wurtsmith Air Force Base Oscoda MI
Aberdeen Proving Ground (Edgewood Area) Edgewood MD Aberdeen Proving Ground (Michaelsville Landfill) Aberdeen MD Alabama Army Ammunition Plant Childersburg AL Anniston Army Depot (Southeast Industrial Area) Anniston AL Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant Hall County NE Fort Devens Fort Devens MA Fort Devens-Sudbury Training Annex Sudbury MA Fort Dix (Landfill Site) Pemberton Township NJ Fort Eustis (US Army) Newport News VA Fort George G. Meade Odenton MD Fort Lewis (Landfill No. 5) Tacoma WA Fort Lewis Logistics Center Tillicum WA Fort Ord Marina CA Fort Richardson (USARMY) Anchorage AK Fort Riley Junction City KS Fort Wainwright Fort Wainwright AK Iowa Army Ammunition Plant Middletown IA Joliet Army Ammunition Plant (Load-Assembly-Packing Area) Joliet IL Joliet Army Ammunition Plant (Manufacturing Area) Joliet IL Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (Northwest Lagoon) Independence MO Letterkenny Army Depot (PDO Area) Franklin County PA Letterkenny Army Depot (SE Area) Chambersburg PA Lone Star Army Ammunition Plant Texarkana TX Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant Karnack TX Louisiana Army Ammunition Plant Doyline LA Materials Technology Laboratory (USARMY) Watertown MA Milan Army Ammunition Plant Milan TN Natick Laboratory Army Research, Development, and Engineering Center Natick MA New Brighton/Arden Hills/TCAAP (USARMY) New Brighton MN Picatinny Arsenal (USARMY) Rockaway Township NJ Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant Riverbank CA Rocky Mountain Arsenal (USARMY) Adams County CO Sacramento Army Depot Sacramento CA Savanna Army Depot Activity Savanna IL Schofield Barracks (USARMY) Schofield HI Seneca Army Depot Romulus NY Sharpe Army Depot Lathrop CA Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant Desoto KS Tobyhanna Army Depot Tobyhanna PA Tooele Army Depot (North Area) Tooele UT Tracy Defense Depot (USARMY) Tracy CA Umatilla Army Depot (Lagoons) Hermiston OR US Army/NASA Redstone Arsenal Huntsville AL Weldon Spring Former Army Ordnance Works St. Charles County MO West Virginia Ordnance (USARMY) Point Pleasant WV
US Coast Guard
Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard Baltimore MD
Adak Naval Air Station Adak AK Alameda Naval Air Station Alameda CA Allegany Ballistics Laboratory (USNAVY) Mineral County WV Bangor Naval Submarine Base Silverdale WA Bangor Ordnance Disposal (USNAVY) Bremerton WA Barstow Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow CA Brunswick Naval Air Station Brunswick ME Camp Lejeune Military Res. (USNAVY) Onslow County NC Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton CA Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station Havelock NC Concord Naval Weapons Station Concord CA Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center North Kingstown RI El Toro Marine Corps Air Station El Toro CA Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head MD Jackson Park Housing Complex (USNAVY) Kitsap County WA Jacksonville Naval Air Station Jacksonville FL Marine Corps Combat Development Command Quantico VA Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany GA Moffett Naval Air Station Moffett Field CA Naval Air Development Center (8 Waste Areas) Warminster Township PA Naval Air Engineering Center Lakehurst NJ Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island (Ault Field) Whidbey Island WA Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island (Seaplane Base) Whidbey Island WA Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek Virginia Beach VA Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Eastern Pacific Wahiawa HI Naval Industrial Reserve Ordnance Plant Fridley MN Naval Security Group Activity Sabana Seca PR Naval Surface Warfare Center – Dahlgren Dahlgren VA Naval Undersea Warfare Engineering Station (4 Waste Areas) Keyport WA Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant Bedford MA Naval Weapons Station – Yorktown Yorktown VA Naval Weapons Station Earle (Site A) Colts Neck NJ Navy Ships Parts Control Center Mechanicsburg PA New London Submarine Base New London CT Newport Naval Education & Training Center Newport RI Norfolk Naval Base (Sewells Point Naval Complex) Norfolk VA Norfolk Naval Shipyard Portsmouth VA NWS Yorktown – Cheatham Annex Yorktown VA Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island SC Patuxent River Naval Air Station Patuxent River MD Pearl Harbor Naval Complex Pearl Harbor HI Pensacola Naval Air Station Pensacola FL Port Hadlock Detachment (USNAVY) Indian Island WA Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Kittery ME Puget Sound Naval Shipyard Complex Bremerton WA South Weymouth Naval Air Station Weymouth MA St. Juliens Creek Annex (US Navy) Chesapeake VA Treasure Island Naval Station-Hunters Point Annex San Francisco CA USN Air Station Cecil Field Jacksonville FL Washington Navy Yard Washington DC Whiting Field Naval Air Station Milton FL Willow Grove Naval Air and Air Reserve Station Horsham PA Yuma Marine Corps Air Station Yuma AZ
Millions were spent and continue to be spent by the Defense Department to clean-up EPA Superfund installations.
Those who served on military installations on the EPA Superfund list and at hazardous military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere are at a higher risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and other hazards than other Americans.
Camp Lejeune veterans and their dependents (where the VA is a payer of last resort for dependents) have access to VA health care for 15 health conditions covered under P.L. 112-154, The Janey Ensminger Act. However, the long history of the fight for medical health care for Camp Lejeune Marines, sailors and their dependents left an untold number dead without the benefit of health care.
The VA is under the scrutiny of the media and Congress for failure to provide health care to veterans. The VA has the tools to provide an internet link on their website to the EPA Superfund database. This internet links would be invaluable to veterans and go a long way to reversing the public’s perception of a government agency that to many doesn’t give a damn.