The Genesee County, Michigan, Circuit Court, U.S. District Court in Detroit and the Michigan Court of Claims has seen at least 9 lawsuits filed over lead contamination, Legionnaires’ disease, or other public health issues connected to the Flint, Michigan, water crisis in the past three months. Contaminated Flint water is believed to have created thousands of victims of all ages across the city. Most of the lawsuits have been brought as potential class action lawsuits on behalf of all city residents and businesses affected by corrosion or contamination from the city’s aging water infrastructure.
Flint separated itself from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in April 2014 at the direction of the emergency manager for the city. The city’s water was instead drawn from the Flint River for more than 18 months before the city switched back to the Detroit water system. The lawsuits claim that it was known the Flint water needed anti-corrosion treatment chemicals, but they weren’t used and the water wasn’t evaluated. Those oversights led to high levels of lead in the water flowing through the taps in people’s homes and city businesses.
Eight residents have alleged professional negligence in a Genesee County lawsuit. The case is one of at least four related cases assigned to Genesee Circuit Judge Archie Hayman. Mark McAlpine, owner of McAlpine P.C. in Auburn Hills, is the attorney for the residents in the lawsuit. McAlpine claims that those handling Flint’s water management were advised in November 2014 of a need to correct high trihalomethane levels in the Flint water supply. He also suggested that the water may have been aggressively chlorinated to eliminate other chemicals known to be present.
In other lawsuits, charges of gross negligence and premises liability were brought against a hospital in Flint on behalf of two Otisville residents and two Flint residents who allegedly contracted the Legionella virus (which causes Legionnaires’ disease) within days after being admitted. One of those residents, Debra Kidd, 58, later died at Genesys Regional Medical Center. The case against the McLaren Regional Medical Center was filed by Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Harrington PC.
A 10th local lawsuit, filed on behalf of 2-year-old Flint resident Sophia Waid, her father, Luke Waid, and Michelle Rodriguez, alleges gross negligence, nuisance, violations of due process and of the federal Safe Water Drinking Act. Another lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, and parent/resident Melissa Mays, names the members of the Flint Receivership Transition Advisory Board and State Treasurer Nick Khouri as plaintiffs.
Some experts think governmental immunity and court precedents will make winning a case against Flint and the state a long shot. However, as the lawsuits continue to trickle in, many are interested to see how everything plays out and who, if anyone, will be held responsible.