Camp Lejeune chemical-exposure claims have led to a $45 million advertising blitzkrieg by law firms seeking clients for litigation of the case.
Personnel who worked or served at Marine Corps Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 were exposed to industrial solvents, benzene, and other harmful chemicals via drinking water.
Many of these chemicals were cancer-causing carcinogens; victims developed bladder, kidney, and liver cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, adult leukemia, and other diseases.
Over the past six months, legal firms have spent $45 million on advertising for Camp Lejeune chemical exposure claims on TV, radio, and the Internet.
Research firm X Ante’s data indicates that “94,000 television ads on Camp Lejeune have aired between March 22 and Sept. 28 in every media market across the country,” according to Reuters.
The spending began before President Biden signed the PACT Act, which contains the Camp Lejeune Justice Act that allows those harmed to file claims within a two-year window.
First, claims are filed with the Office of the Judge Advocate General in Norfolk, Virginia. Once the JAG unit’s assent is received, veterans and their families are allowed to file claims in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
However, after the law was signed on Aug. 10, spending on advertising ramped up. X Ante reports that in August, $19 million was spent on Camp Lejeune ads, while another $22 million was spent in September, according to Reuters.
The top advertisers are not the law firms themselves, but rather lead generators for those firms.
Reuters noted that data from X Ante showed that the top three advertisers, all lead generators, have spent $29.2 million advertising the claims process thus far.
Veterans advocates, however, caution those who see the ads to tread carefully, noting that the boom in TV spots stems not from altruism but from the chance to make money from suing the government.
“The big reason for all the commercials and stuff like that is it gave the ability to sue the government.” Jason Thornton, veteran service officer at the Tuscarawas County Veterans Services Office, told Ohio newspaper The Times-Reporter.
Mr. Thornton urges veterans to do their research on specific firms and lawyers before signing anything.
“They need to be wary of what they’re getting into, because there’s attorney fees and they could end up actually losing money. I encourage them to do the research and find a reputable lawyer if they’re going to go that route,” Mr. Thornton told The Times-Reporter.
Pat Murray, national legislative director for the nonprofit Veterans of Foreign Wars, told the American Homefront Project, which airs reporting on the military and veterans on NPR affiliates, that one company referred to him asked for a $5,000 fee.
“If you’re denied, they’ll return fifty percent of that fee, but the veteran who sent it to us was not even on the list that was even eligible, so he would have just wasted $2,500,” Mr. Murray told the American Homefront Project.
Ads have also made misleading claims. Marine veteran Brian Amburgey, who served at Camp Lejeune in 1984 and later developed a rare cancer linked to chemicals in the base’s water, saw one spot use his face without his consent.
The ad also insinuated that he had already won his settlement and had received $35,000.
“I didn’t even get thirty-five cents!” Mr. Amburgey told the American Homefront Project.