Victims of contaminated water that wasn't discovered for decades lost their effort to sue polluters at the Supreme Court on Monday in a case that could set back thousands of former Marines and their families with similar claims.
The justices ruled 7-2 that North Carolina's law requiring lawsuits to be brought within 10 years of the contamination is not superseded by a federal law designed to give victims a two-year opportunity to file claims after the pollution comes to light. At least four states have similar laws.
That could spell trouble not only for the Asheville, N.C., property owners seeking to recover damages from an electronics company for contamination that occurred at least 30 years ago, but for veterans who have fought for years to win damages from the Navy for deaths and illnesses caused by toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
The case was notable because the Obama administration opposed the residents' claims, even after President Obama signed a law in 2012 that provided health benefits to Camp Lejeune veterans and family members. The law was named after Janey Ensminger, who died in 1985 at age 9 of a rare form of leukemia.