For Information About the Proposed Settlement

If you are a Flint resident or business owner and you’d like information about the proposed settlement, please go to www.FlintWaterJustice.com. If you would like to speak to someone directly about the settlement or if you need assistance with the form, please call: 1-866-536-0717 or text: "Flint" to 47177 or email: info@flintwaterjustice.com.

On November 10, 2021, Judge Judith E. Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted final approval  of a landmark $626.25 million settlement resulting from the class action and individual lawsuits brought on behalf of more than 90,000 Flint residents and businesses against multiple governmental defendants, including the State of Michigan, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and individual defendants, including former Governor Rick Snyder, for their roles in re-directing toxic levels of contaminated water from the Flint River into the City’s drinking water in an effort to save money and their subsequent efforts to try to cover up the crisis.

The ruling means that Flint residents can now begin to receive financial relief from the settlement. 80 percent of the funds will go to those individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crisis, with a large majority of that amount to be paid for claims of children aged 6 and younger. The remaining funds will go to special education services in Genesee County, adults, business owners and property owners for property damage.

Litigation against two private engineering firms, Veolia North America (VNA) and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN), both charged with professional negligence, and separate litigation against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, continues before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. On August 11, 2021, Judge Levy granting class certification on liability claims in the ongoing litigation against LAN and VNA. It is alleged that each company failed to give appropriate professional advice, greatly adding to the widespread lead contamination of the water that flowed into Flint during the water crisis. 

Cohen Milstein’s Theodore J. Leopold was court-appointed Interim Co-Lead Class Counsel in 2017 to lead this consolidated environmental toxic tort litigation.

Case Background

In 2014, in an effort to save money, the City of Flint switched its water supply to water drawn from the highly contaminated Flint River. That change set into motion a series of events that ended with many of the City’s nearly 8,000 small children permanently harmed by lead poisoning, and over 30,000 of the City’s many housing units rendered nearly worthless because of corroded, unsafe pipes and appliances.

On March 31, 2016, Cohen Milstein filed an initial lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Flint residents against two corporations and multiple government entities involved in the Flint water and lead crisis. According to the complaint, engineering firms Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN) and Veolia, both major professional companies with experience in water systems, gave the City disastrously bad advice about the switch to Flint River water.

When Flint’s citizens complained about the new water’s bad smell, color, and taste—and later, when the City suffered an outbreak of deadly Legionnaires’ disease—the engineering companies failed to identify corroding pipes as the root cause of the City’s problems. Had they taken even the most basic steps required of professional engineers, they would have discovered that Flint River water was eight times more corrosive than the City’s previous water source, and they would have taken steps to prevent the leaching of dangerous lead into residents’ water supply.

Instead, LAN and Veolia made the problem worse. They recommended that the City double the water system’s dose of ferric chloride—a highly acidic chemical that only compounded the City’s corrosion problem. Rather than anticipating and ameliorating the water’s increased corrosivity, LAN and Veolia did nothing to prevent added ferric chloride from further eating away at Flint’s lead pipes.

Subsequent class action complaints were later filed against LAN, Veolia, Governor Rick Snyder, the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, and city personnel in their individual and official capacities. The complaints allege that, as a result, lead concentrations in Flint water reached astonishingly high levels—in one case, as much as 880 times the EPA’s legal limit. The toxic lead made its way into residents’ water, and then their blood. Lead poisoning is known to cause serious damage to children’s central and peripheral nervous systems, stunt growth, reduce IQ, and cause serious behavioral problems. The effects of these symptoms can reverberate across a child’s entire lifespan.

Flint’s corrosive water had also caused devastating damages to residents’ property. The water had permanently corroded pipes and appliances connected to the Flint water system—leaving many residents in a vicious catch-22. Because of the damages to their pipes caused by LAN’s and Veolia’s negligence, the homes of Flint residents are no longer valuable enough to serve as collateral for the loans they need to fix their pipes and purchase new, safe appliances. Instead, the residents are stuck in dangerous homes, unable to afford the price of safety.

On August 1, 2018, Judge Judith E. Levy of the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan granted in part and denied in part the defendant’s motion to dismiss, stating that certain “government officials disregarded the risk the water posed, denied the increasingly clear threat the public faced, protected themselves with bottled water, and rejected solutions that would have ended this crisis sooner." While Judge Levy’s ruling cleared the way for the Flint Water Crisis Class Action to proceed against government officials and private contractors, it also narrowed certain elements of the suit, including dismissing allegations against Governor Rick Snyder, with leave to amend the complaint.

On October 5, 2018, relying on new information that emerged during class action plaintiffs’ ongoing investigation and related criminal cases, Cohen Milstein and co-counsel, filed an amended complaint on behalf of Flint Water Crisis plaintiffs detailing new allegations concerning the role of some of Michigan’s highest state officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, in the ongoing public health crisis involving the Flint’s water. The amended complaint bolsters claims that Flint’s African American residents were denied equal protection under the law.

The October 5, 2018 amended complaint, Carthan v. Snyder, Case No. 5:16-cv-10444, included allegations questioning how Governor Snyder and his administration responded to the unfolding crisis, including that 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, for months before an official announcement was made and that they concealed this information from the public. As Governor Snyder’s Chief of Staff wrote in an email, “the people there [in Flint] just seem to be getting a raw deal from the city, particularly in terms of the information they are getting.” Yet Snyder and his administration waited months to declare a state of emergency in Flint, depriving citizens of important resources.

The October 5, 2018 complaint also alleged that senior officials at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”), the state agency responsible for overseeing the supply of drinking water statewide, failed to comply with state and federal laws, as well as departmental policies. For example, DEQ allegedly granted a fraudulent administrative consent order in an effort to allow Flint to borrow millions of dollars despite being in receivership. The complaint further details how DEQ officials have failed to put in place a satisfactory non-discrimination policy despite being ordered to do so by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more than a year ago. This failure denied Flint’s African American citizens a fulsome procedure for challenging DEQ’s discriminatory conduct.

On April 1, 2019, Judge Levy granted in part plaintiffs’ motion for leave to file a fourth amended complaint in relation to Carthan v. Snyder, Case No. 5:16-cv-10444 and reinstated Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, as a defendant in the class action lawsuit brought by victims of the Flint Water Crisis. Governor Snyder, as well as other government defendants, will now face charges of violating Flint citizens’ “right to bodily integrity” as protected under the 14th Amendment.

In her ruling, Judge Levy noted that “the allegations plausibly describe ‘conscience shocking’ conduct.”  She continued:

“[P]laintiffs plausibly state that the Governor acted indifferently to the risk of harm they faced, demonstrating a callous disregard for their right to bodily integrity. This indifference manifested itself in two ways. Initially, the Governor was indifferent because instead of mitigating the risk of harm caused by the contaminated water, he covered it up. In private, he worried about the need to return Flint to DWSD water and the political implications of the crisis. But in public, he denied all knowledge, despite being aware of the developing crisis.

As a result, plaintiffs were lured into a false sense of security. They could have taken protective measures, if only they had known what the Governor knew. Instead, the Governor misled them into assuming that nothing was wrong. Governor Snyder’s administration even encouraged them to continue to drink and bathe in the water.”

In a parallel case to Cohen Milstein's Flint Water Crisis Class Action, on April 18, 2019 the Honorable Linda V. Parker of the Unites States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, issued an opinion and order in favor of plaintiffs, denying the EPA’s motion to dismiss Burgess v. United States of America, Case No. 4:17-cv-11218-LVP-RSW. Jan Burgess and more than 5,000 Flint residents sued the EPA for its role in causing the Flint Water Crisis. In her ruling, Judge Parker condemned the EPA for its “failure to warn Flint residents of the severe health risks the City’s water supply posed to them…the EPA was well aware that the Flint River was highly corrosive and posed a significant danger of lead leaching out of the City’s lead-based service lines at alarming rates into residents homes [and] was well aware of the health risks posed by lead exposure, particularly to children and pregnant women.”

On May 22, 2020, the Sixth Circuit affirmed Judge Levy's April 1, 2019 ruling, requiring former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and other government officials remain defendants in the class action. The majority of justices determined that Snyder and other government defendants could not claim qualified immunity because they allegedly violated the residents' bodily integrity, a protected constitutional right, and did so with "deliberate indifference."

On June 2, 2020, the Sixth Circuit denied former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's motion to stay from being deposed as a result of Judge Levy's April 1, 2019 court order. Former Governor Snyder and former State Treasurer Andy Dillon now must subject themselves to deposition by Plaintiffs counsel.

On July 14, 2020, the Sixth Circuit denied former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's request for an en banc review of the lower court's decision denying his qualified immunity argument.

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In the Flint Water Crisis Class Action, the victims allege that officials from the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, Genesee County and two private engineering firms created the public health crisis, having made calculated decisions that “deliberately exposed” residents of Flint to the harmful health effects of lead, while providing superior water to residents of an affluent, largely white community nearby.

The lawsuit seeks to hold these officials and engineering firms accountable. In addition to financial relief, plaintiffs are asking the Court to require repairs to private property, the establishment of medical monitoring and appointment of a monitor who will assist in the development of other remedial plans including early education and intervention programs.

On July 26, 2017, Theodore J. Leopold of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Michael Pitt of Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers PC were appointed by Judge Levy as Interim Co-Lead Counsel for the ten related class action lawsuits.

The consolidated class action is named: In re Flint Water Cases, Case No. 16-cv-10444, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan

For Information About the Proposed Settlement

If you are a Flint resident or business owner and you’d like information about the proposed settlement, please go to www.FlintWaterJustice.com. If you would like to speak to someone directly about the settlement or if you need assistance with the form, please call: 1-866-536-0717 or text: "Flint" to 47177 or email: info@flintwaterjustice.com.