Two additional defendants accepted partial responsibility for the 2014 Flint water quality crisis, pushing the proposed settlement fund’s amount to more than $640 million.

Key defendants in this case include the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, McLaren Regional Medical Center, a hospital which handled a Legionnaires Disease outbreak related to lead poisoning in the water,  and Rowe Professional Services Co., the contractor which was responsible for faulty infrastructure. U.S. District Judge Judith Levy is set to review the settlement provisions. If she approves, affected Flint residents could begin receiving payments almost straightaway.

Lead plaintiffs attorney Hunter Shkolnik, a partner at New York’s Napoli Shkolnik, said the settlement “can begin the process of closing one of the most difficult chapters in the state’s history and believe it will provide some level of relief for the people of Flint who have suffered greatly.”

Flint Water Quality Timeline

In 2014, the City of Flint began using the Flint River for its drinking water supply. The city saved considerable money by cancelling its contract with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, which piped water to Flint from the Detroit River and Lake Huron. Much of that savings came from the fact that the new water infrastructure had no corrosion inhibitors, which filtered lead from the water. Since the new water ran through the same aging pipelines, lead levels spiked.

The contractor who designed and built the new infrastructure intentionally omitted the inhibitors, in order to cut costs and increase profits. At the same time, environmental regulators, who are supposed to keep people safe, did not ask too many questions.

In response, Flint switched back to the DWSD in October 2015. Officials hoped that the lead contamination problem, which they knew about and failed to address, would not be too bad. But by then, thousands of children had ingested poisoned water, and a related Legionnaires Disease outbreak had killed twelve people. As a result, both then-Governor Rick Snyder and then-President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint and Genesee County.

In the wake of the crisis, prosecutors filed over a dozen criminal cases against several officials at the local and state level. But there has been only one conviction, and the other cases have been dismissed.

As is so often the case, when the government fails to protect citizens and companies put profits before people, a knowledgeable personal injury attorney must intervene.

Lead Poisoning

The earliest documented cases of lead poisoning occurred about 2,000 B.C.E. Once this heavy metal enters the bloodstream, it causes a wide range of injuries to a number of different organs, such as:

  • Brain: Lead-related brain injuries, mostly memory loss and developmental delays, are especially common in children. So, these children quickly fall behind in school, and there is a multiplying effect. As the months and years pass, these kids fall even further behind.
  • Reproductive Organs: High lead levels cause sperm counts in men to plummet. Female victims have higher instances of pregnancy complications and miscarriages. Additionally, since their breast milk is tainted with lead, their children suffer as well.
  • Cardiovascular System: There is a connection between high lead levels and hypertension (high blood pressure). The effects are worse on days when the ozone level is high.
  • Kidneys: Even a slightly-elevated lead level can cause permanent kidney damage. Common conditions include Fanconi syndrome, which is a severe metabolism malfunction, nephropathy, which is also known as renal disease or kidney disease, and gout.

Serious symptoms usually begin at exposure levels above 40μg/dL. According to some estimates, as many as 12,000 children might have been exposed to lead levels well above the 40μg/dL threshold.

People with certain pre-existing conditions are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. Because of the eggshell skull rule, these individuals are usually entitled to maximum compensation. Insurance companies and other defendants cannot use a victim/plaintiff’s inherent weakness, like an eggshell skull, as an excuse to deny compensation.

Damages Available

Unfortunately, no one can turn back the clock and reverse events like the Flint water crisis. So, financial compensation enables victims to put their lives back together and move forward.

Typically, this compensation includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. In class action matter, additional punitive damages are usually available as well. The jury could award punitive damages if there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally disregarded a known risk.

Water poisoning victims have legal and financial rights. For a confidential consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Marie Napoli. There are no upfront legal fees.