WASHINGTON — Victims of contaminated water that wasn't discovered for
decades lost their effort to sue polluters at the Supreme Court on
Monday in a case that could set back thousands of former Marines and
their families with similar claims.
The justices ruled 7-2 that
North Carolina's law requiring lawsuits to be brought within 10 years of
the contamination is not superseded by a federal law designed to give
victims a two-year opportunity to file claims after the pollution comes
to light. At least four states have similar laws.
That could spell
trouble not only for the Asheville, N.C., property owners seeking to
recover damages from an electronics company for contamination that
occurred at least 30 years ago, but for veterans who have fought for
years to win damages from the Navy for deaths and illnesses caused by
toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
The case was notable because
the Obama administration opposed the residents' claims, even after
President Obama signed a law in 2012 that provided health benefits to
Camp Lejeune veterans and family members. The law was named after Janey
Ensminger, who died in 1985 at age 9 of a rare form of leukemia.
Marine veteran father, Jerome Ensminger, who has led a lengthy battle
on behalf of veterans and families from Camp Lejeune, criticized the
government after the ruling was announced.
"I certainly don't want
to hear anything from the Obama administration nor the Democratic Party
about their being champions of the environment," Ensminger said. "They
are only champions of the environment when the conditions are favorable
to their needs."
The ruling came from Justice Anthony Kennedy, who
was joined by the court's other conservatives as well as Justices Sonia
Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Dissenting were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg
and Stephen Breyer.
READ MORE: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/09/supreme-court-toxic-water-marines/9968805/