September 15, 2023
A Michigan federal judge rejected engineering firm Veolia North America LLC’s bid to bar some testimony by an environmental and natural resource economist from an anticipated issues-class trial over the Flint water crisis.
VNA sought to exclude opinions estimating property value losses by David Keiser, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, claiming they would be irrelevant and prejudicial and would confuse or mislead a jury.
U.S. District Judge Judith E. Levy was not persuaded in an opinion issued on Friday, noting it is one of a series of opinions addressing VNA challenges to testimony by nine experts that plaintiffs have retained, with an issues class trial presently set to start Feb. 13.
Keiser, a co-author of “Economic Effects of Environmental Crises: Evidence From Flint, Michigan,” was initially retained to provide an overview of economic damages stemming from the Flint water crisis.
Keiser contends his methodologies can show water supply mismanagement harmed Flint residents and property owners, and estimates total housing value losses in Flint range from $520 million to nearly $560 million.
While VNA argued Keiser’s measures of the magnitude of loss would not help determine causation, the judge said the magnitude is relevant to the extent that it provides context for Keiser’s claims.
“His model compares home prices in Flint and ‘control cities’ in order to test for a divergence in price due to water contamination,” Judge Levy said. “Presenting that information to a factfinder will assist them in understanding how Dr. Keiser reached his conclusions about whether the water contamination could cause harm to Flint properties.”
Judge Levy also was not persuaded that the challenged testimony would confuse a jury or cause prejudice.
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Class plaintiffs are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonanni & Rivers PC, Weitz & Luxenberg PC, Susman Godfrey LLP, Motley Rice LLC, the Law Offices of Teresa A. Bingman PLLC, Bronstein Gewirtz & Grossman LLC, Law Offices of Deborah A. Labelle, NAACP, Goodman & Hurwitz PC, Trachelle C. Young & Associates PLLC, The Dedendum Group, McKeen & Associates PC, Law Office of Cirilo Martinez PLLC, Shea Aiello PLLC, Cynthia M. Lindsey & Associates PLLC, McAlpine PC and Abood Law Firm.