Court: Flint class-action can proceed over lead in water

Court: Flint class-action can proceed over lead in water
July 30, 2020 The Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — Flint residents whose health and homes were harmed by lead-contaminated water scored a legal milestone Wednesday when the Michigan Supreme Court said they could proceed with a lawsuit against public officials for the disastrous decisions that caused the scandal.

“Plaintiffs in this case raise some of the most disturbing allegations of malfeasance by government actors in Michigan’s history,” Justice Richard Bernstein said.

The court’s opinion was a key procedural step in long-running litigation that now will return to the Court of Claims.

The Supreme Court, 4-2, said Flint residents could pursue a claim of diminished property values. Residents also can argue that their right to bodily integrity was violated by the use of corrosive water from the Flint River.

That part of the opinion was a 3-3 tie. But it’s a victory for residents because a tie under court rules affirms an earlier decision in their favor by the Michigan appeals court.

Flint used water from the Flint River in 2014-15 without treating it to reduce the corrosive effect on old pipes. As a result, lead leached into the system. Use of the river water was supposed to be a temporary measure while a pipeline was built to Lake Huron.

The lawsuit names then-Gov. Rick Snyder, two former Flint government managers appointed by Snyder and public agencies that repeatedly assured the public that the water was safe.

“Defendants have fought plaintiffs every step of the way by attempting to foreclose their lawsuit through procedural grounds. Yet, the people of Flint have endured, and they now ask for an opportunity to be heard,” Bernstein said. “The judiciary should be the one governmental institution that hears their grievances and affords them the opportunity to at least proceed with their case.”

In a dissent, two conservative justices, Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra, said the lawsuit should be stopped based on strict deadlines to file a claim. Justice Elizabeth Clement didn’t participate because she was involved in Flint water legal matters as a member of Snyder’s senior staff.

During arguments in March, Assistant Attorney General Nate Gambill had urged the court to rule against Flint residents.

“There is no policy maker who authorized or mandated that low-level staffers go out and expose the plaintiffs to toxic water,” he said.


Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez

Read more on Flint at Great Lakes Now:

Michigan Supreme Court hears case over Flint water liability

Following Flint: Former EPA head to lead advocacy group that challenged agency’s role in Flint

Investigation: Lead in some Canadian water worse than Flint

Beyond Flint: Environmental justice water woes impact many other urban communities study says

IJNR Snapshots: The human and environmental costs of emergency management in Detroit and Flint

Featured image: In this Aug. 31, 2018, file photo, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaks during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

1 Comment

  1. Christopher Brown 4 years ago

    This will pave the road to justice for the Essential workers in Michigan that Governor Whitmer ordered to work for the first 8 weeks and told NOT toe wear a mask, and police EMS who had to ration PPE and masks because she failed to prepare for such an event, she put many at risk, ALSO a class action for deaths of nursing home patients …. SHE should be held criminally responsible for all those…. and she made all these decissions on her own, and did not want any input from other branches of government,. she OWNS it all !!

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