$600 million preliminary settlement reached on behalf of the residents of Flint, Michigan in water contamination lawsuit
Flint residents have reached a preliminary settlement to resolve the major contamination of the city water source, due to the negligence and greed of the city government and officials. While the settlement has many positives, there are still a number of concerns that the settlement doesn't make whole all the damages that the contaminated water caused.
Most people saw the horrendous videos of the water contamination in Flint, Michigan back in 2014. Unfortunately, the residents of Flint had to deal with this problem for several years because of the city’s continued reckless disregard for their wellbeing. Thankfully, two lawyers, Ted Leopold and Michael Pitt were able to reach a preliminary settlement of almost $600 million in a civil lawsuit on behalf of the class members affected by the toxic lead that was contaminating the water.
Following the settlement, Leopold stated that “The residents of Flint were victims of horrendous decisions by the state, its employees, and other defendants that have resulted in tragic and devastating consequences…While we can never undo the damage that occurred to the citizens and community of Flint, we are pleased that today we were able to secure a measure of justice.”
The proposed preliminary settlement will provide:
- Flint residents eligibility for hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from the fund, with nearly 80% of payments going to those who were under 18 at the time of the crisis. This is due in part because the children who were affected were most vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead, which can affect brain development.
- Those listed as part of the settlement include multiple government defendants that involve the state of Michigan, The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and all individual state defendants, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who left office at the end of 2018.
- A fund would be created and dedicated to providing special education for students who suffered long-term health issues as well as behavioral issues that were directly caused by lead poisoning.
- According to the breakdown of the settlement, around 65% of the money would go to Flint residents who were 6 and under when first exposed to lead in Flint water, with 10% going to those who were between the ages of 7 and 11 and 5% to those who were 12 to 17. About 15% would go to adults and 3% would be allocated for property damage.
Success or failure?
While we are excited that the residents of Flint have been able to secure a preliminary settlement, does that mean that justice has been served to all those affected?
While the Michigan Attorney General, Dana Nessel, has fought hard for this settlement and believes it will satisfy the damages caused, others do not agree that the settlement fully repays those affected. She stated that “providing relief for the people of Flint and resolving these long-standing legal disputes has been a top priority for me since taking office.” Commenting that Flint residents “have endured more than most, and to draw out the legal back-and-forth even longer would have achieved nothing but continued hardship. This settlement focuses on the children and the future of Flint, and the State will do all it can to make this a step forward in the healing process for one of Michigan’s most resilient cities."
While it is amazing that the settlement is making sure to prioritize the children who were affected most by the lead poisoning, it may be overlooking those who suffered greatly as adults. One such resident, Nayyirah Shariff, director of the grassroots group Flint Rising, called the settlement "disappointing" and "not at all satisfactory." She continued, “I have seizures now, and because I'm an adult, I wouldn't probably get even $6,000. Who knows what my long-term health issues are going to be?"
Another prominent voice in the matter, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, spoke up and said that settlement is an “acknowledgment that our people – our children – have been permanently harmed by the deliberate negligence of those who were supposed to serve us." While the settlement is celebrated and welcomed, "the demand for justice will not be satisfied until every person who had a hand in poisoning my city be held legally accountable, regardless of political position or power," Ananich said.
Although Dana Nessel sees this settlement as a “step forward in the healing process,” we may never know whether the settlement will even come close to adequately compensating the residents of Flint for the damages they have suffered and will likely continue to suffer. We will make sure to update you as the case develops.