Verdicts & Settlements

Michigan agrees to pay $600M to settle Flint water claims; most money allocated to minors

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Flint water plant

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The state of Michigan has agreed to pay $600 million to settle claims by Flint, Michigan, residents and businesses that said they were harmed by lead that leached into the city’s water supply.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the settlement Thursday, report NPR and MLive.com.

The deal, which must get court approval, resolves civil cases against the state, its agencies and its employees. The National Law Journal also had coverage, based on information provided by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

About 80% of the settlement fund will be spent on claims of children who were minors when they were first exposed to the water, according to a settlement summary. Young children are at greatest risk from lead exposure.

The settlement was reached after more than 18 months of negotiations. Litigation continues against other defendants that are not part of the settlement, including two private engineering companies.

Water officials had switched Flint’s water supply in April 2014 from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money, but they didn’t treat the corrosive water to prevent lead from leaching into the water. The water source was later switched back to Lake Huron.

A civil rights commission appointed to investigate concluded that systemic racism played a role in causing the crisis.

The New York Times and the Washington Post had reported on the settlement on Wednesday, based on information from anonymous sources. The deal includes money for those who contracted Legionnaires’ disease, allegedly from exposure to the water. At least 90 people contracted the illness, and 12 died from it, according to the Washington Post.

The state had also brought criminal charges against several officials in connection with the water crisis. The outstanding charges were dropped last year because of “grave concerns about the investigative approach and legal theories” in the cases, according to a statement by prosecutors. New charges have not been filed, according to the New York Times.

If the civil settlement is approved, “it is likely to be the largest in Michigan state government history, affecting tens of thousands of people and resolving more than a hundred cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts,” according to the state attorney general press release. Michigan will have contributed more than $1 billion in aid to Flint, including the payment of $97 million to replace lead water pipes in the city.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Who’s to blame for poisoning of Flint’s water?”

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