A South Florida lawyer is part of the team of litigators asking for more than $169 million in attorney fees.
The move comes after a federal district judge in Michigan gave the nod to a more than $600 million settlement in a years-long battle over contaminated water in Flint.
Theodore J. Leopold, a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Palm Beach Gardens said that reaching this partial settlement as co-lead counsel for the victims required overcoming several obstacles, some of which are still pending.
“There was a minority community that was preyed upon by the, at the time, governor of Michigan,” Leopold said. “The injustice that occurred is something that we should never lose sight of, and we, as lawyers, should be there to stop these types of injustices.”
One of the challenges Leopold faced early on was that Michigan asserted it had sovereign immunity from these types of lawsuits. He said plaintiff counsel had to bypass the threshold to establish key areas of constitutional law to show that the state’s conduct was conscious indifference.
Leopold said a second challenge was battling defendants in multiple courts over their opposition to their lawsuits.
“We had probably from eight to 12 appeals that were not just to the Michigan Supreme Court, but also to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Leopold said. “There was a long trilogy of cases, fields that had to be addressed.”
Leopold also said the two defendants have appealed for appellate review of class certification against them. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal ruling will determine if the remaining defendants will go to trial.
“Hopefully, the infrastructure bill will address some of the water contamination issues not only PFAS related areas, which is a very big area right now, but also as it relates to piping infrastructure,” Leopold said, referring to toxic chemicals and polyfluoroalkyl substances. “Lead piping that’s all going to have to be replaced is one of the tenants of the infrastructure bill.”
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