LANDMARK $600 MILLION PRELIMINARY AGREEMENT REACHED IN FLINT WATER LITIGATION PROVIDES RELIEF TO RESIDENTS, PROPERTY OWNERS AND BUSINESSES
State of Michigan to Fund Special Education Programming for Students Suffering Long-term Health and Behavioral Impacts
FLINT, MI. – Interim Co-lead Class Counsel for victims of the Flint water crisis announced today a landmark $600 million settlement with multiple governmental defendants, including the state of Michigan, in the Flint Water Crisis litigation. This partial settlement is the result of 5 years of litigation and 18 months of court supervised negotiations. Interim Co-lead Counsel will continue to pursue claims against the remaining defendants on behalf of certain residents and local businesses in the City of Flint harmed by the water crisis.
The settlement will establish a court-monitored victims compensation fund that will provide hundreds of millions of dollars in direct payments to Flint residents, nearly 80 percent of which will go to those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crisis. Flint residents, including minors, adults, property owners, and businesses, will be eligible to make claims from the compensation fund for personal injuries, and property and business damages. The claims process and compensation awards will be based on categories of injury. The settlement also takes into account community needs. For example, a dedicated fund will be created to provide special education programming for students who suffer long term health and behavioral impacts from lead poisoning.
The State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and all individual defendants, including former Governor Rick Snyder, are included as parties to this settlement. It is important to note that this Preliminary Agreement is a partial resolution of claims for adequate and fair compensation. The litigation will continue against other defendants, including two private engineering firms charged with professional negligence—Veolia North America (Veolia) and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN). Each failed to give appropriate professional advice and greatly added to the widespread lead contamination of the water into proposed class members’ homes and businesses. Separate litigation against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will also continue.
All Flint residents harmed by the water crisis will have an opportunity to submit a claim for relief under the Agreement. Interim Class Counsel, Ted Leopold, with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Michael Pitt, with Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonanni & Rivers, respectively, along with affiliated firms will be conducting a public awareness campaign about the settlement and will continue to advocate for members of the proposed class and settlement sub-classes and the guardians or representatives of any children who wish to be provided legal assistance to guide them through the claims process. Claimants presenting the same profile of injuries will receive the same awards without regard to whether they are represented by an attorney or law firm. The Special Master and Plaintiffs’ lawyers will help supervise this part of the process. Under the settlement, Interim Class Counsel will seek appointment as Class Counsel for the Settlement Class and the proposed sub-classes, and Interim Class Counsel will be authorized by the Agreement to assist in securing for any parent or family member an award for his or her child who is not represented by counsel. Residents are encouraged to visit flintwaterjustice.com or call 866-536-0717 for information.
“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. This public health disaster was the product of a complete disregard for the health and well-being of ordinary citizens. 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 for the proposed class and the Flint community, and will continue to seek justice against the remaining defendants,” said Ted Leopold, court-appointed interim co-lead counsel and Partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.
Michael Pitt, court-appointed interim co-lead counsel and Partner at Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonanni & Rivers, PC., added, “Interim Class Counsel worked with the State and counsel representing individual plaintiffs to negotiate a settlement that took into account the interests of the class and the community. We made sure that there was broad coverage so that the most impacted members of the community could participate in the settlement. Clearly, this is an important first step toward addressing the damage done to the bodies, spirit, and community of Flint. By obtaining justice, Flint residents and businesses can begin to rebuild from this tragedy.”
The Court-Appointed Interim Executive Committee that has worked in tandem with interim co-lead counsel for the past five years has included Steve Morrissey of Susman Godfrey L.L.P., who also chaired the Expert Committee; Paul Novak of Weitz & Luxenberg; Teresa Bingman of the Law Offices of Teresa A. Bingman; Esther Berezofsky of Motley Rice, LLC; and Peretz Bronstein of Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman L.L.C.; Mark McAlpine and Jayson Blake of McAlpine PC worked with interim class counsel in coordinating related proceedings in state court. Shawn Raymond of Susman Godfrey served on the Mediation Team and played an instrumental role in negotiating the settlement. Emmy Levens and Jessica Weiner with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll coordinated all briefing. Jordan Connors and Katherine Peaslee of Susman Godfrey oversaw discovery. Greg Stamatopoulos of Weitz & Luxenberg and Sarah Hansel of Motley Rice, LLC worked with experts.
The interim class counsel team also include attorneys Trachelle C. Young of Trachelle C. Young and Associates; Julie Hurwitz and Bill Goodman of Goodman, Hurwitz & James PC; Deborah LaBelle of the Law Offices of Deborah LaBelle; Cynthia Lindsey and Shermane Sealey of Cynthia M. Lindsey & Associates PLLC; Brian McKeen of McKeen & Associates; and Cary McGehee and Beth Rivers of Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonanni & Rivers PC.
“This historic Agreement will remain noteworthy for many reasons beyond the justice rendered here. We will never be able to truly reverse the harm and endangerment that was a direct result of failed leadership, including by individuals elected as public servants. The action taken in reaching this partial settlement is a clear reassurance of being able to hold our government and its officials accountable. This is also a historic win for a city that’s rich in its history of Black, Brown and Immigrant working people whose trust, patience and resilience remained visible in the pursuit of justice and accountability,” said Teresa A. Bingman, Law Offices of Teresa A. Bingman and member of the Executive Committee and Mediation Team.
In 2014, the City of Flint switched its water supply to draw from the highly contaminated Flint River. What followed was one of the nation’s most horrific public health disasters, with all of Flint’s residents exposed to lead poisoning and corrosive water, including over 10,000 minor children. Research clearly shows that children are highly susceptible to permanent, long-term health consequences from lead poisoning. Additionally, over 30,000 of the City’s housing units lost significant value, and require substantial remediation expense, because of corroded, unsafe pipes, fixtures and appliances.
As the lawsuit uncovered, it was calculated decisions by government officials and the reckless and professionally negligent conduct of the private engineering firms that exposed residents of Flint to the harmful health effects of lead and damaged homes and businesses throughout the city.
Flint residents charged that the engineering firms LAN and Veolia gave disastrously bad advice about switching over the water supply and ensuring the quality and safety of Flint water. When Flint citizens complained about the new water’s bad smell, color and taste—and later, when poisonous lead levels easily could have been identified and the City suffered an outbreak of deadly Legionnaires’ disease—these companies failed to identify the absence of any corrosion control in the Flint water system as the root cause of the problems, conduct standard tests to assess corrosivity in the water, assess the scope of the problems, and recommend steps that could have avoided the enormous harms to the City’s residents and businesses.
Victims also accused former Governor Snyder and his administration of carrying out a woefully slow and inadequate response to the unfolding crisis. While former Governor Snyder and his staff were aware of the health risks associated with the city’s transition to Flint River water, including the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, they knowingly concealed information from the public and waited several months before declaring a state of emergency. Furthermore, the DEQ failed to comply with State and federal laws and put in place a satisfactory non-discrimination policy.