(Washington, D.C.) The law firms of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Susman Godfrey L.L.P., along with the NAACP and other attorneys, have filed a state class action lawsuit on behalf of four Genesee County residents and all other people and businesses of Flint, Michigan that have been harmed by exposure to toxic levels of lead and other hazards from the city’s drinking water.
The state civil suit filed in the Circuit Court in Genesee County alleges that Defendants Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN) and Veolia North America (Veolia), two engineering firms who consulted on the city’s switch to Flint River water, neglected their professional duties, gave disastrously bad advice, and ignored several red flags that should have led them to suspect corrosion problems in Flint’s water system.
Flint hired LAN in 2013 to help with its transition from water provided by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to water sourced from the Flint River. The Flint River proved to be much more corrosive than DWSD water, and city residents immediately reported problems. Within weeks, the water became discolored and foul-smelling and levels of harmful trihalomethanes increased to levels exceeding EPA guidelines. In the summer of 2014, corroded pipes provided an environment for harmful Legionella bacteria to thrive, leading to an outbreak of deadly Legionnaires’ disease. In early 2015, the city hired Veolia as an additional water consultant to address problems with Flint water. But despite warning signs that would have been obvious to any reasonably competent engineer, both LAN and Veolia failed to identify the root cause of Flint’s problems: corrosion of pipes in the Flint water system. Had LAN and Veolia undertaken a standard root cause analysis, they would have discovered that Flint pipes were gradually leaching lead into the water supply, poisoning city residents. “Sadly, LAN and Veolia were hired to provide expert analysis and thoughtful fixes, but they failed on both accounts and left the citizens of Flint exposed to infected and poisonous water,” stated Ted Leopold with the law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and one of the lead attorneys for the Plaintiffs.
LAN and Veolia compounded their mistakes when they recommended that Flint double the ferric chloride in its water. Ferric chloride is acidic, and made the already problematic Flint River water even more corrosive. Moreover, LAN and Veolia provided false assurances of safety that allowed citizens and businesses to continue to drink dangerously contaminated water. Meanwhile, Flint government offices quietly switched to bottled water.
The complaint alleges that LAN’s and Veolia’s decisions and actions caused substantial personal injuries to children and adults. Lead poising can result in serious damage to children’s central and peripheral nervous systems, stunt growth, impair hearing, and impair the formation and function of blood cells. The effect of lead poisoning on children’s brain development is particularly harmful, causing reduced IQ and serious behavioral problems. Lead exposure can be seriously harmful to adults as well, causing serious cardiac and reproductive problems. Plaintiffs and the Class have suffered terrible personal injuries as a result of LAN’s and Veolia’s failures and the child-members of the Class will continue to suffer damages for years to come such as loss of economic earnings. “Unfortunately, Flint citizens have been left to suffer the consequences of poor decision making by so-called experts that the state authorities relied upon to address and fix the problems,” stated Steve Morrissey, with the law firm of Susman Godfrey and co-lead counsel with Mr. Leopold.
Flint residents have also suffered devastating losses to their property. Flint’s corrosive water has permanently damaged water pipes on residents’ property—pipes that must be replaced at the owners’ cost—and the pipes, fixtures and appliances in residents’ houses. The crisis has also reduced the value of Flint homes, leaving many homeowners in a catch-22: because of the damage to their pipes caused by LAN’s and Veolia’s negligence, residents’ homes are no longer valuable enough to serve as collateral for the loans they need to replace their pipes.
The complaint alleges six counts including professional negligence, gross negligence, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and unjust enrichment. It seeks to recover damages to compensate class members for the personal injuries and property damages LAN and Veolia caused.
Filed Summons and Complaint - July 6, 2016
About Cohen Milstein
Founded in 1969, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is a national leader in plaintiff class action lawsuits and litigation. As one of the premier firms in the country handling major complex cases, Cohen Milstein, with 90 attorneys, has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C. For more information, visit https://www.cohenmilstein.com or call (561) 515-1400.
About Susman Godfrey
For more than thirty years, Susman Godfrey has focused its nationally recognized practice on just one thing: high states commercial litigation. Susman Godfrey is one of the nation’s leading litigation firms, with offices in Houston, Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York.