© 2024 Public Radio East
Public Radio For Eastern North Carolina 89.3 WTEB New Bern 88.5 WZNB New Bern 91.5 WBJD Atlantic Beach 90.3 WKNS Kinston 88.5 WHYC Swan Quarter 89.9 W210CF Greenville
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Judge urges quick action in first hearing in Camp Lejeune water contamination suit

Trial Attorneys Mikal Watts, Thomas Henson, Camp Lejeune Advocates Jerry Ensminger and Michael Partain.
(Photo: Camp Lejeune Legal)
Camp Lejeune Legal
Trial Attorneys Mikal Watts, Thomas Henson, Camp Lejeune Advocates Jerry Ensminger and Michael Partain.

If each case in the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination lawsuit went to trial independently, it would take the four U.S. District Court of Eastern North Carolina judges 1,900 years to get through — around the same time span of the Roman Empire.

That’s according to District Judge James Dever, who presided over Wednesday’s first hearing in the class-action suit filed by the Marines and their families who were harmed by the toxic water at Marine Base Camp Lejeune.

Dever made it clear that this litigation will advance quickly, and Trial Attorney Mikal Watts with Camp Lejeune legal agreed that urgency is needed.

“This thing's going to get moving. It's going to become a rocket docket, which is what it needs to do because our clients, because the exposure was so long ago, are up there in age and they can't wait around the lawyers to dig around for years and years and years and years,” he said, “They need their money now.”

Jerry Ensminger lost his 9-year-old daughter, Janey, to leukemia linked to the contamination and has been fighting on her behalf years.

“Holy Heck, it's already been 26 years for me. I mean, yeah, what's a few more years?" he said, "But I would like to see this stuff get resolved sooner rather than later, and it was very encouraging to hear Judge Devers today put that that into motion.”

After Ensminger took his fight before the U.S. Congress for years after he discovered the water was tainted, fatally for some, Janey’s Law was signed by President Barack Obama in 2012; it allows those who served aboard Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987 and their family members to file claims with the VA for illnesses caused by exposure to toxins found in the base’s water supply during those years.

Last August, President Joe Biden signed the Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Act; it allows people to sue and recover damages for harm from exposure to the contaminated water if they spent at least 30 days on base, including those who were in-utero and born by mothers who drank the water, between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.

People have just two years to file those claims.

Previous coverage:

25 year fight for justice; retired USMC MSgt and father of child victim continues to advocate for those impacted by toxic Camp Lejeune water

"Lejeune baby" advocating for justice for those injured by toxic water aboard Camp Lejeune

Erin Brockovich speaks out for justice for victims of toxic water aboard Camp Lejeune

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to eastern North Carolina in 2019 to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of kiddo cuddling, reading, and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.