Frequently Asked Questions

Flint Water Settlement: November Update & FAQs

The FAQs below summarize the settlement documents, and are not a substitute for the actual settlement documents. 

 These FAQs are based upon the settlement submitted to the Court for approval and assume that the settlement will be approved without unusual delays or appeals. However, that will not be known until the Court has reviewed the proposed settlement and approved it after public hearings that it will schedule. 

How much money will I get?

 

It depends. If you or members of your family are eligible for a settlement payment, the amount of money you or they will receive will be based on your individual situation. The total amount of settlement dollars contributed by the settling parties is just over $641.2 million. Certain expenses and fees will be deducted from that amount and the remaining balance will be available to pay claims. 

Of the total settlement dollars available to pay claims, approximately 79.5% will be spent on children who are or were minors when first exposed to Flint water, 18% will be spent on adults and property damage, 0.5% will be spent on business loss, and 2% will be spent on programs for the children of Flint. $20 million of the money will go directly to Legionella injuries and death cases as well. 

Of the approximate 79.5% available to minors, 64.5% will be spent on children ages 6 and under when first exposed to Flint water, 10% will be spent on children ages 7-11 when first exposed to Flint water, and 5% will be spent on children ages 12-17 when first exposed to Flint water. 

Payment amounts will vary, depending on the details of your claim and the category you qualify for based upon those details. 

Specific information on qualifying criteria, monetary awards, documentation and proof requirements are part of the proposed settlement submitted to the Court. A Court-appointed claims administrator who will administer the submitted claims will set up a website with information explaining how to submit claims, deadlines, and many other details about the process. A link to that website will be accessible here once that website is running. 

When will I get my money? 

The timing is subject too many variables for us to give you a set time. The timing also depends on deadlines set by the Court. The settlement agreement has now been submitted to the Court for review and preliminary approval. The Court will schedule and hold a public hearing on whether to preliminarily approve the settlement. If the Court preliminarily approves the settlement, then notice of the settlement and its proposed terms will be given throughout Flint and to the public. 

The public will then have several months to review the settlement, register for the settlement, submit objections to the Court, opt-out of the settlement, and make their own decisions about participating in the settlement. 

At the end of that period, the Court will conduct a hearing on whether it will give final approval of the settlement. The Court will only give final approval of the settlement if it finds that it is fair, reasonable, and adequate. For there to be a final settlement, the Court must approve it and there must be enough participation by Flint residents in the proposed settlement. Information on how to register for the settlement will be on the website of the Court-appointed claims administrator. A link to that website will be accessible here once that website is running. 

After a person or business has registered for the settlement, they will also have to submit a claim. Details on how and when to submit a claim will be on the website of the Court-appointed claims administrator. If your claim is approved by the Court-appointed claims administrator, you will receive your payment after all claims have been submitted and processed. After the date that the Court grants final approval of the settlement, the claims administration process is expected to take several months, and after that time, you should expect to receive your funds. 

The above timetable is subject to the Court’s discretion, and it may be different depending on what the Court orders. If the Court approves the settlement and that approval is appealed to a higher court, there could be substantial delays of months or even years in the timeline. If the Court does not approve the settlement or if enough Flint residents do not register for it, there will not be a settlement. 

Will there be a hearing where the public can comment on the settlement? 

Yes. The detailed settlement agreement for the Flint water-related civil lawsuits has been presented for preliminary approval to Judge Judith Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The settlement agreement is also available on the www.flintwaterjustice.com website. Judge Levy will set a date and hold a public hearing. After the hearing, if preliminary approval is granted by Judge Levy, then the process of claim registration, through which Flint residents indicate their intention to file a settlement claim, can begin. 

 

If preliminary approval is granted, the final approval of the settlement will depend on a significant number of Flint residents registering their claim over a several month period to be set by the Court, and the Court’s determination after a final approval public hearing that the proposed settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable. It is anticipated that the participants in the settlement will be able to provide comments to the Court as part of the final approval public hearing process in accordance with a schedule to be set by the Court. If the settlement receives final approval after a public hearing by the Court, Flint residents and families will be able to receive monetary compensation on their submitted and eligible claims for exposure to Flint water after the April 25, 2014 switch to the Flint River. 

Will the settlement definitely be approved by the Court? 

No, but we hope so. It has taken more than a year of complex and steady negotiations with many parties and Court-appointed mediators to reach this proposed settlement, which involves thousands of claims. The Court will only approve the settlement if it finds that it is reasonable, fair, adequate, and meets all legal requirements for such a settlement. In addition, a sufficient number of qualified minors, adults, business owners, and property owners must register for the settlement for it to successfully proceed. Details on these requirements are in the settlement agreement. 

Will I need a lawyer? 

No. You are not required to have a lawyer to register or to later file a settlement claim. However, if you are a parent or guardian of a minor, or were a minor when the water crisis started, it may be helpful for you to have a lawyer in the process, and we are happy to discuss this with you and help you through the claims process. 

What about accountability/How do we know people will actually get their money? 

Multiple layers of supervision are typically put in place in these types of settlements to ensure that the settlement payments are protected and used to pay valid claims. All settlement payments will be deposited and held in a qualified settlement fund. A claims administrator will be appointed by the Court. The claims administrator will be responsible for receiving, tracking, and then paying all valid claims from that fund. The claims administrator will be required to enact procedures to prevent fraud, issue monthly reports, and maintain a record of activities undertaken. To ensure the integrity of the process, the claims administrator will report to and be overseen by the Court. 

If I owe money, will my settlement money be seized? 

This depends on your personal circumstances, who you owe the money to, and whether they have taken any action to collect it, such as serving a valid lien to enforce their collection rights. As part of the settlement, the State of Michigan has agreed that any payment from the settlement will not be subject to certain Medicaid-related liens owed on the State’s portion of those liens. Details on that item and on how liens in general will be handled concerning settlement money are described in the settlement agreement. 

Will I have to pay taxes on the money? 

It depends on your individual situation and tax status. Typically, income taxes do not have to be paid on personal injury settlements. There could be tax consequences for money that you receive as part of the settlement for property damage or business loss. You should consult your own tax advisor for the answer to this question.  

 

Will the money affect other public benefits that I receive? 

It may, and you will need to be careful and pay attention when you select an option on how you receive the money, so that receipt of this money does not affect your rights to other public benefits. For help with these and other related issues, you may want to consult an attorney. Some useful information may also be found on the website of the Court-appointed claims administrator. We will post that link here when the website becomes available. 

Who is the Court-appointed claims administrator? 

The Court has been asked to approve and appoint Archer Systems, LLC as the claims administrator. Information about Archer can be found at https://www.archersystems.com. The claims administrator is responsible for administering many of the details of the settlement, including, among other things, providing and processing registration and claim forms, receiving and analyzing those forms from claimants, reporting to the Court and parties on all aspects of implementing the settlement, paying valid claims, communicating with claimants, maintaining a settlement website and database, and many other aspects of the settlement. More detailed information about the Court-appointed claims administrator’s role in the settlement is contained in the settlement agreement. 

How will minors and legally incapacitated individuals get their settlement funds?

 

Through a Court-approved process. Special legal requirements must be met whenever payments are made for the benefit of a minor or a legally incapacitated individual. The same is true here. For a general outline of what the Court will require to submit a claim on behalf of a minor or a legally incapacitated individual, and how settlement proceeds will be paid for their benefit, see the settlement agreement and the website of the Court-appointed claims administrator, which we will post here when it is complete. The registration and settlement process for minors and legally incapacitated individuals will take place at the same time as the adults, property and business processes. 

Can a deceased person’s estate register and later file a settlement claim? 

If someone has died but they met the criteria to qualify for the settlement while they were alive, their estate may register and pursue a claim. 

Why isn’t anyone going to prison as punishment for their role in what happened? 

This settlement is part of the civil law process and is completely separate from the criminal law process. Civil matters like this are resolved financially, and not by criminal prosecution. Any decisions about criminal prosecutions concerning water in Flint are entirely unrelated to this civil settlement. 

What if I do not want to participate in this settlement? 

You do not have to participate in the settlement. That is entirely up to you. However, if you were an adult when first exposed to the Flint water after the switch to the Flint River, or have any business or property damage relating to the water in Flint, and you do not want to participate in this settlement, you must actively opt-out of the settlement. If you participate in this settlement, then you will lose any further right to make a claim relating to exposure to Flint water. Information on how and when to opt-out of the settlement is in the settlement agreement and will be available on the Court-appointed claims administrator website. If you do opt-out of the settlement, you can then maintain or bring your own separate Court case, which may be subject to case management orders, timelines and other specific requirements determined by the Court. The proposed case management orders are in an exhibit to the settlement agreement. 

Why is there a settlement instead of a trial? 

A settlement avoids uncertainty and helps the people of Flint begin to heal. After more than four years of litigation in numerous courts, with many more years of uncertain and risky litigation ahead, all of the parties to the settlement decided to reach a full and final settlement at this time. As part of the settlement approval process detailed in these FAQs, the Court will have to determine that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate. In addition, the participating lawyers who filed lawsuits on behalf of individual plaintiffs or who pursued class action lawsuits agree that this settlement is in the best interests of their clients and is preferable to continuing to litigate. The cases are very complex and there is real risk in continuing to litigate these cases in Court. For instance, continuing litigation and going to trial could result in Flint residents receiving no financial recovery. A settlement avoids that risk and helps all of us to start the healing process together. 

How much will the plaintiffs’ lawyers receive? 

The Court will determine the amount of plaintiffs’ attorney fees and expenses. In general, the plaintiffs’ attorneys will make arguments to the Court as to how much they should receive for their years of efforts. The requests by plaintiffs’ attorneys to the Court on the amount of their attorneys’ fees and expenses will be available to the public after being filed with the Court. The Court will make the ultimate decision. 

Why doesn’t every Flint resident get money? 

Not everyone qualifies for the settlement. To receive settlement money, you must fit into one of the settlement categories that have been agreed upon by the plaintiffs and settling defendants, and that still must be approved by the Court. These settlement categories should include any person who could be entitled to any money due to the water in Flint. Also, in general, young minors who tested positive for elevated lead levels during the relevant time period will receive more money than other young minors who had lower or no lead levels. The same is the case for older minors. The amounts will vary depending on when a person was first exposed to the water and other factors. For more specific information and details, see the Settlement Agreement. 

What is the source of the money to pay the settlement claims? 

The following settling parties are funding the settlement in the amounts shown, subject to their rights described in the settlement agreement: 

-State of Michigan: $600 million 

-City of Flint: $20 million 

-McLaren Regional Medical Center: $20 million 

-Rowe Professional Services Company: $1.25 million 

What about the other engineering companies and other defendants in the lawsuits? 

While this settlement will resolve the lawsuits filed against the State and the other settling defendants, it does not settle the lawsuits that plaintiffs and the people of Flint have against other responsible parties, such as the two remaining engineering companies advising about Flint’s water supply, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. 

The lawsuits brought against the two remaining engineering companies advising about Flint’s water supply, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency will continue and may provide more compensation to the people of Flint in later settlements or verdicts against them. 

The State will also continue its lawsuit against the two remaining engineering companies, seeking to make them pay for their share of the damages caused by them due to their involvement with Flint’s water. 

How and when do I file a claim? 

There is a two-step process after and assuming that the court approves the settlement. 

First, you will have to indicate your intention to file a settlement claim by registering for the settlement. Second, you will also need to complete and submit a separate claim form and the related documents mentioned in that claim form. Detailed information on the registration and then the claim-filing process, including deadlines, will be available on the website of the Court-appointed claims administrator. 

Who is the Special Master? 

The Special Master was appointed by the Federal Court during the Flint water litigation to help develop a structure for settling the civil Flint Water cases. The Special Master is Deborah Greenspan from the law firm of Blank Rome. Information about her background can be found at https://www.blankrome.com/people/deborah-greenspan. The Special Master is familiar with all aspects of the settlement structure. She will consult with the claims administrator and make certain decisions to assist in administering the registrations and claims submitted by claimants in the settlement. The Special Master will also decide certain appeals related to reconsideration requests of monetary awards that claimants may seek. The Special Master will also help resolve any disputes that may develop over the settlement documents. More detailed information about the Special Master’s role in the settlement is contained in the settlement agreement. 

Can I appeal my settlement amount? 

There will be an opportunity for you to ask the claims administrator to reconsider its initial determination of the award amount of your claim. There will also be an opportunity to appeal the claims administrator’s determination to the Special Master. In that event, the Special Master will determine whether the claims administrator erred based upon clear and convincing evidence and whether your award should be adjusted. The Special Master’s decision will be final. More detailed information about the reconsideration and appeal process is contained in the settlement agreement. 

How do I report potential fraud to the Court-appointed claims administrator? 

You will be able to report suspected fraud to the Court-appointed claims administrator by contacting them via email, writing, or phone. The claims administrator is also experienced in detecting fraudulent claims and conduct and will be applying that experience in performing its claims administration duties in this settlement. 

© 2020 Flint Water Justice

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