March 23, 2023
A Michigan state judge has signed off on the historic $626 million settlement between Flint residents and government officials, marking the latest step in resolving sprawling litigation over lead contamination in the city’s drinking water.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the Monday approval from Genesee County Judge David J. Newblatt, nearly three years after the settlement was first announced and well over a year after the federal judge who oversees consolidated state and federal Flint litigation approved it in a November 2021 order.
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A Friday Sixth Circuit ruling upheld a decision to award $202 million from the settlement fund to attorneys for five years’ worth of work that led up to the settlement with most of the defendants.
The Sixth Circuit rejected objectors’ bid to get detailed billing records from the firms in their attempt to challenge the lawyers’ cut of the settlement fund, finding the objectors didn’t have the right to obtain detailed discovery from the law firms.
The remainder of the $600 million settlement fund will be divided among class members and individual claimants, with the bulk of the funds, 80%, set aside for children and heavily weighted toward children who were exposed to lead at age 6 or younger. Another 15% of the funds will be distributed among adult claimants, 3% for property damage claims and 0.5% for businesses, with the remaining 2% designated for local school districts to provide special education services to affected students.
About 43,000 people filed claims before a 2022 deadline to join the settlement, and the claims are under review by a court-appointed administrator, Archer Systems LLC, and additional firms Wolf Garretson LLC and Alvarez & Marsal Disputes and Investigations LLC, brought on in February to assist with the claims processing.
The settlement does not include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is a defendant in some of the suits, or two engineering firms that declined to join the settlement.
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The Flint water plaintiffs are represented by co-lead class counsel Theodore J. Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Michael L. Pitt of Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonanni & Rivers PC and co-liaison counsel for individual plaintiffs Hunter Shkolnik of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC and Corey M. Stern of Levy Konigsberg LLP.
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