Michigan to pay $600 million to Flint Water Crisis victims
Michigan state officials have agreed to pay $600 million to the residents of Flint, Michigan to resolve legal claims against the state for causing the contamination of Flint’s water supply with lead and other harmful substances. The water crisis, which garnered international attention, killed at least a dozen people and exposed thousands of children to toxic levels of lead.
Motley Rice environmental attorneys Esther Berezofsky, Michael Quirk and Sarah Hansel represent Flint families in the litigation. Berezofsky serves as one of the Interim Class Counsel on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee in the federal class action suit, filed in 2016 in the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.
“While nothing can undo the long term harm caused by the egregious conduct which caused the exposure of Flint’s children to lead contaminated water, this settlement is a first step in providing relief from the harm caused to the Flint community,” said Motley Rice attorney Esther Berezofsky.
Flint’s water crisis began in 2014 after government officials, in order to cut costs, opted to switch Flint’s water supply from Detroit’s water system, to the much more corrosive Flint River water. As a result, the Flint River water corroded the City’s pipe systems and toxic levels of lead leached into the water supply.
Residents began complaining about the quality of the water almost immediately, citing discolored water, rashes, hair loss and other issues. Government officials ignored their pleas for help and in the face of evidence to the contrary, maintained that the water was safe. There is no safe level of lead in the body, and lead poisoning, particularly in children can result in severe, life-long neurological, developmental, behavioral impairments, and medical conditions in adults.
Residents who lived in Flint between 2014 and 2016 are eligible for compensation through the settlement fund. Of the $600 million, 80% will be allocated for Flint’s impacted children, who are most vulnerable to lead exposure. Of that, 67% will assist children who were under the age of six at the time of the crisis, with $12 million set aside to support school children. Another $35 million will fund a future trust for children who are not able to participate in the settlement now, but may later have claims for which they can seek compensation.
While the settlement resolves the litigation against the State of Michigan, legal claims against Veolia North America (VNA) and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN), the private engineering firms retained by the government, are ongoing.
“We continue to actively litigate against, and seek accountability from the engineering defendants for their alleged failure to prevent the completely avoidable corrosion problems which lead to the contamination of Flint’s water supply,” said Motley Rice attorney Sarah Hansel.
Motley Rice has been a champion for people impacted by lead contamination. In addition to this settlement, we also obtained landmark settlements for abatement against lead paint pigment companies, on behalf of 10 cities and counties in California and have obtained verdicts against lead paint companies on behalf of injured people.