The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked judges in the Eastern District of North Carolina to accelerate their plans to consolidate the thousands of Camp Lejeune lawsuits that have been filed. The government has responded to less than 20% of the individual cases currently filed with a deadline to respond looming, according to Reuters.
Attorneys working on behalf of the government are currently defending nearly 1,000 cases with 663 lawsuits awaiting replies. The plaintiffs are part of a massive contingent of former U.S. service members and their families who have allegedly suffered injury because of water contamination that was present at the naval base. While there are many cases now, sources say that the Camp Lejeune litigations could make up one of the largest mass litigations in history.
The four judges for the Eastern District of North Carolina have been considering the methodology for a joint order that will use a consolidation process to manage the increasing caseload. Three of the four judges have agreed to slow their timetables in order to consider the consolidation plans while the final judge, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle, has ordered his cases to continue moving forward despite the government’s pleas.
A representative of the government noted that there is “fundamental tension” between the judges’ consolidation plans and the orders of Judge Boyle. While awaiting consolidation plans, the government has filed answers to 198 cases with 11 different plaintiff firms. Without a consolidation plan, the government’s caseload is only expected to increase as the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act continues to allow increasing numbers of affected veterans to file claims against the government.
According to the justice department, since the PACT Act was signed, more than 70,000 administrative claims have been submitted to the Navy. so far, none of the claims or lawsuits have been resolved and if they do not become resolved, the lawsuits will be handled in federal litigation.