The Navy’s announcement Thursday that it would deny 4,400 claims from Marines and their families who say contaminated water at Camp Lejeune caused cancers and other serious illnesses raised the question of whether any affected military community could ever be compensated for the ailments they now face.
On Thursday, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said that despite the Navy’s acknowledgement there were harmful cleaning solvents and fuels that may have been connected to cancers found in Camp Lejeune personnel from 1953 to 1987, he decided this week to deny claims from those Lejeune lawsuits. In all, the claims sought $963 billion in damages.
Spencer’s announcement seemed to end the families' quest — at least on the military front ― to seek damages.
“I am perfectly cognizant of the fact this will be a disappointment to the claimants,” Spencer said, “However it would be a disservice ... to hold the claims without a decision or a way forward."
Spencer cited three reasons the Navy decided to deny the claims: That recent court decisions found the contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, did not meet the conditions to grant a waiver to allow affected members to sue the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act; that service members themselves could not sue because of the Feres Doctrine; and that the spouses and dependents of service members who could have sued the government for their own cancers have likely passed the time frame in which they could have filed a case. The Navy has been considering the Camp Lejeune issue for 20 years.