North Carolina statute cited in bad water claims at Camp Le Jeune

A North Carolina statute that limits the time in which claims can be made for injuries caused by the deposit of toxic chemicals and substances has been cited by the Obama administration in an effort to terminate litigation involving allegations of toxic chemicals in the drinking water at Camp LeJeune. The law bars all law suits that are filed more than ten years after the occurrence of the last act of contamination. The law suit in question concerns contaminated drinking water, but the plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued that the ten-year limitation period, called a “statute of repose,” should not prevent claims for diseases that have long latency periods, i.e., diseases in which symptoms may not appear until decades after the last exposure to a hazardous material or chemical.

Perhaps the best known of such diseases is mesothelioma, a lung cancer caused by inhalation of asbestos fibers. Many medical studies have proved that asbestos fibers that lodge in lung tissue after being inhaled can cause mesothelioma symptoms to develop even several decades after the fibers were ingested.

Most states have recognized the unfairness of short limitation periods for asbestos-related claims, and they have passed laws exempting claims for damages caused by asbestos exposure from statutes of limitation, i.e., laws that limit the time in which an individual can file a lawsuit for damages. The fate of North Carolina’s statute of repose will not be known until the court renders its decision on the government motion. Even then, asbestos-related claims could be excluded from the effect of the statute of repose even if claims based on toxic drinking water are dismissed. Anyone who may have a claim for damages based on exposure to asbestos should not hesitate to seek a confirming medical diagnosis and to seek help from an attorney knowledgeable about pursuing such claims.

Source: Raleigh News Observer, “Obama lawyers seek end to Lejeune toxic-water case,” Emery P. Dalesio, June 11, 2014