Last week, a federal judge again denied the US government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that contaminated water at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina contributed to a woman’s cancer. It is the second time the government has failed in its attempt to have Laura Jones’ lawsuit dismissed.
For years, Marines who served at Camp Lejeune have blamed their families’ cancers and other ailments on tap water tainted by dry cleaning solvents, and many accuse the military of covering it up. The contamination occurred from the 1950s through the 1980s, and health officials believe as many as 1 million people may have been exposed to the toxins before the wells that supplied the tainted water were closed two decades ago. The outcome of the Jones lawsuit could have significant implications for everyone who lived on base in those three decades.
Jones, who hails from Iowa, lived at Camp LeJeune in the 1980s when her husband was stationed there. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2003. The government had sought to dismiss her lawsuit on the grounds that her 2009 complaint was outside North Carolina’s 10-year statute of repose for injury claims. But Jones attests in her suit that she only learned in 2005 about the toxic chemicals and organic solvents that were in the water she drank on base cold have caused her illness.
“The Court cannot fathom a law that would require hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs to bring their claims before they even had opportunity to know they were harmed,” Eastern District Court Judge Terrence Boyle wrote in his 12-page order denying the government’s motion to dismiss.
In his first decision issued in February refusing the government’s request that Jones’ lawsuit be dismissed, the judge indicated the government had not followed its own rules regarding Camp Lejeune drinking water.
“In sum, during at least part of Plaintiff’s residence at Camp Lejeune, the Department of the Navy had notice of the presence and toxicity of the chemicals at issue in the water supply of Camp Lejeune,” Boyle wrote at the time. “specific instructions were in place regarding the types of chemicals that plaintiff alleges were responsible for her injuries.”