Supreme Court won't hear case of military widow who alleges her husband died of toxins exposure at Camp Lejeune

On November 7, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case brought by a military widow who wants to sue the government because she says her husband's death was the result of exposure to toxic and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, seen here on April 29.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

(CNN) -- The Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case brought by a military widow who wants to sue the government because she says her husband's death was the result of exposure to toxic and contaminated water at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base.

Carol Clendening says her husband, Gary, who served as a Marine Officer in the Judge Advocate Division, died after the government didn't protect him from exposure and failed to warn him of the exposure after discharge.

A lawyer for Clendening told the justices that when Gary Clendening lived at Camp Lejeune he had no idea that the water supplied "to him for drinking, cooking and bathing was contaminated with toxic chemicals, nor did he know that he was constantly being exposed to radioactive waste." He was diagnosed with adult leukemia in 2007 and died in November 2016.

"The government has since admitted through the Department of Veterans Affairs that Clendening's exposure caused his cancer and other illnesses," Clendening's lawyer argued.

But lower courts said the lawsuit was blocked by the so-called Feres doctrine that says that members of the military cannot sue the US for negligence for injuries sustained on active duty under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices in court papers that since Clendening's petition was filed, President Joe Biden signed into law the Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022, which allows certain veterans and their legal representatives to bring suit in federal court in North Carolina for relief specifically directed at harm caused by exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune.

"No further review is warranted," she said.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the court's decision to take up the case. He has in past cases raised serious reservations about the Feres doctrine.

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