What North Carolina Rule Threatens Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Payouts?

What North Carolina Rule Threatens Camp Lejeune Lawsuit Payouts

The Camp Lejeune toxic water lawsuit has been a hot topic in the legal industry for decades. Lawyers are fighting for decorated Marines over billions in settlement amounts. According to Bloomberg, the expected payout can be over USD 21 billion. 

Lawyers have spent millions to prepare for this lawsuit. They have invested countless hours researching and collecting proof for the plaintiffs. Victims are waiting in anticipation to get a ruling for this hearing. 

This lawsuit showcases people standing up to government negligence and corporate misconduct. Therefore, the entire nation wants the plaintiffs to win. However, a rare local North Carolina (NC) rule has turned lawyers and plaintiffs into a frenzy. This obscure law threatens to destroy years of hard work. 

In this blog, we will discuss this new development in the Camp Lejeune class action lawsuit. 

Changes in Law Made for the Camp Lejeune Lawsuit

Attorneys knew that existing laws might not help their cause. That is why the best lawyers for Camp Lejeune lawsuit persistently and consistently advocated for changes in the regulations. As a result, the government had to introduce new laws and acts that triumphed over the old ones. 

According to TorHoerman Law, anyone who lived at Camp Lejeune from 1953 to 1987 is eligible for the claim. However, they should have resided at this military base for thirty days and used the tap water for chores. 

Earlier, filing new claims based on these criteria was impossible due to the statute of limitations. However, the Biden government introduced the Camp Lejeune Justice Act in 2022, overruling this limitation. 

Based on this, victims should first file claims against the Department of Navy in the administrative process. They should wait for six months for the ruling. But what happens when there is no settlement even after six months? Then, the victim may file a lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina. 

The Biden administration also reformed the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. Due to this, Veterans Affairs (VA) had to extend health care eligibility for veterans with a toxic exposure history. 

Till 2023, lawyers spent nearly USD 145 million to showcase the importance of filing Camp Lejeune claims. They advertised to sign up victims for the claims. At the time of writing, there were 70,000 registered lawsuits because of advertisements.  Hence, it proved their dedication to delivering justice for Camp Lejeune victims. 

What Is the Rule About?

The North Carolina rule states that out-of-state lawyers can only represent three unrelated NC cases yearly. Judge Terrence Boyle brought everyone’s attention to this rule when he questioned a Chicago-based law firm. He did not want out-of-station lawyers to represent so many Camp Lejeune cases.  

This law firm argued that the Camp Lejeune cases were related. Therefore, the state rule does not apply. They also requested the exemption of this lawsuit based on ‘good cause.’ 

However, this local rule resulted in out-of-state lawyers being turned away from the courthouse. Of course, for many, it seemed like a trick and a fault in American law. These victims were already in pain, and finding new legal counsel would become a heavy burden. 

Yes, it seems inhumane because most Camp Lejeune victims are elderly and do not reside in NC. Some speculated that this seemed ironic, given that the government is supposed to pay billions in settlements. 

The Legal Community’s Take on This Rule 

The dismissal of Camp Lejeune cases caught the attention of attorneys nationwide. They argued that the court should allow out-of-state counsel for victims under special consideration. 

Among them was Edward Bell, a lawyer from South Carolina who represented 900 Camp Lejeune lawsuits. He was the one who drafted the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. Mr. Bell argued that plaintiffs should have the right to choose their legal representatives. 

They claim that state registrations do not matter if these out-of-state lawyers have experience in Camp Lejeune's claims. They were disappointed and urged the court to allow ‘good cause’ exceptions for experienced lawyers. 

Mona Lisa Wallace, an NC attorney, urged the court to make exceptions by filing a brief. She wanted the federal court to make a case-by-case exception based on the extent of personal injury. 

Lawyers feel that defending and upholding this notorious rule is not in the best public interest. Plaintiffs will soon become furious if the court holds this local rule too strictly. 

The Bottom Line

Currently, there are only 30,000 licensed lawyers in North Carolina. However, estimates show that one million people were exposed to the toxic waters. The legal industry believes there will be 500,000 Camp Lejeune claims by 2024. That means the state will need more lawyers to represent the victims. 

Out-of-station lawyers are ready to sit for the North Carolina State Bar exam to be able to represent Camp Lejeune victims. This way, they can legally register in the state and represent Camp Lejeune lawsuits without limitations from the rule. It proves their dedication to the plaintiffs. Moreover, these attorneys are eager to see how the court handles this issue after the backlash. 

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