Analyzing Potential “Daubert” Evidentiary Challenges in Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Lawsuits
Individuals impacted by the toxic water supply at Camp Lejeune may be hesitant to file a legal claim due to concerns over producing sufficient evidence to have a viable legal action. This may be due to prominent legal programs on television that repeatedly reference “beyond a reasonable doubt” as the applicable evidentiary standard for lawsuits. In reality, there are different evidentiary standards for different types of cases.
Overview of Different Evidentiary Standards
The well-known “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard prominently featured on television programs like Law & Order applies to criminal cases. This makes sense considering criminal cases often impact an individual’s personal freedom and whether they will be ordered to serve time in a correctional facility. This standard does not apply to civil cases, including cases related to the toxic water supply at the Camp Lejeune military base.
For claims filed under The Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 (CLJA), the evidentiary standard to establish causation simply requires claimants to “produce evidence” showing that “a causal relationship is at least as likely as not.” This is known as “equipoise” causation.
Specifically, Section 2(b)(1)-(2) of the CLJA states:
- IN GENERAL - The burden of proof shall be on the party filing the action to show one or more relationships between the water at Camp Lejeune and the harm.
- To meet the burden of proof described in paragraph (1), a party shall produce evidence showing that the relationship between exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune and the harm is—
(A) sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship exists; or
(B) sufficient to conclude that a causal relationship is at least as likely as not.
A good example of how “equipoise” causation works is, let’s say you were an avid smoker for the majority of your life and were diagnosed with lung cancer. However, you were also stationed at Camp Lejeune for more than 30 days between 1953 and 1987. Under the equipoise causation standard, a court will likely deem your exposure to the contaminated water to be “at least as likely” as smoking cigarettes to be the cause of your lung cancer.
The use of “equipoise” causation for CLJA claims is historic since it is the first time this lower evidentiary standard will be applied in the context of a civil action. Nevertheless, Congress specifically drafted the CLJA to ensure this lower standard is applied in an effort to make it easier for veterans, their loved ones, and civilian workers to obtain financial restitution for their harms and losses from being exposed to the contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune.
So, what exactly does this mean for your Camp Lejeune toxic water case? Well, it should help lessen the hurdles associated with filing a claim, having that claim processed, and ultimately obtaining financial restitution.
Presumptive Diseases Under the CLJA
An important aspect of CLJA contaminated water claims pertains to individuals with specific illnesses who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987. The Veterans Administration developed a list of “presumptive'' health conditions associated with exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. Basically, these health ailments are presumed to be caused by exposure to the toxic water supply at Camp Lejeune, for the purposes of helping establish causation for a CLJA claim. Those presumptive conditions include:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
However, it is important to note that simply having one of the presumptive conditions listed by the VA is not going to be enough to secure financial restitution under the CLJA. In fact, having a presumptive condition would not, in and of itself, meet the evidentiary requirements for a CLJA. You, with the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney, will still need to produce sufficient evidence to the equipoise standard with medical studies that can withstand a Daubert challenge (more than this topic below). need to hold up to daubert challenges.
Daubert Evidentiary Challenges
Filing a CLJA claim is not going to be a proverbial cake walk. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice in the process of hiring multiple attorneys who will likely be tasked with defending the federal government in the Camp Lejeune legal proceedings. This means you, and your attorney, should expect to encounter evidentiary challenges from the government’s legal team attempting to limit liability and only agree to pay out claims based on studies and linked health conditions that exceed the equipoise standard.
One of the most common legal strategies for challenging the submission of certain types of evidence is a “Daubert” challenge. The Daubert standard provides a legal mechanism to try and help measure both an expert’s reliability and the relevance of the evidence they used when formulating their opinions and conclusions. In most civil lawsuits, a Daubert hearing is held after pre-trial discovery is conducted, but before trial commences. This is to ensure excluded evidence is not inadvertently introduced to jurors during trial proceedings.
When a Daubert challenge is filed, the focus is on the opinions reached by an expert and to try and determine whether those opinions are sufficiently reliable and based on sound scientific principles that would enable juries to properly consider the evidence.
A good example of how a Daubert challenge works in practice is the talcum powder ovarian cancer litigation involving Johnson & Johnson (J&J). The defense counsel for J&J filed a Daubert challenge seeking to dismiss multiple studies that linked the use of talcum-based powder products to the development of ovarian cancer. The defense counsel tried to argue that these studies were not “based on sound science” and that plaintiffs should not even be permitted by the court to present the findings to juries.
So, what does this mean for your Camp Lejeune toxic water claim? Well, it means you should put yourself in the strongest position possible by compiling sufficient records and presenting a compelling claim that can withstand a Daubert challenge. One the best ways to accomplish this goal is retaining the services of an attorney who understands the applicable rules of evidence, civil procedure, and is a capable litigator.
Let’s Connect You to a Knowledgeable and Skilled Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Lawyer
If you or a loved one lived, were stationed, or worked at the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 for 30 days or longer, consider reaching out to a respected and reputable attorney to discuss your legal options. We can help. Simply fill out the form on the sidebar, or call the number on this site, and we will connect you with a knowledgeable intake team for a nationwide law firm, working on Camp Lejeune Water cases in all 50 states, but has a strong team in North Carolina.
Written by an attorney licensed in Virginia and North Carolina.