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December 21st, 2020
AG Nessel, on behalf of the state of Michigan, reached a preliminary settlement in August 2020 alongside Governor Whitmer of $641.2 million for victims of the Flint water crisis following an 18 month negotiation between state parties and the legal council of the plaintiffs. A public hearing took place on December 21, 2020 so the public could weigh in on the agreement, an important milestone that marked one of the final steps in the settlement process before it was sent to a judge for final approval. Judge Judith Levy of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan is now expected to rule by mid-to-late January 2021 whether the settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable before the claim registration process can begin and payouts can be made to victims.
If approved, the settlement would be the largest in our state’s history, with thousands of victims receiving financial compensation by means of hundreds of cases being resolved. The state will be the largest contributor of the payout making up $600 million of total, with McLaren Regional Medical Center and the City of Flint also each contributing $20 million. The preliminary settlement designates about 80 percent of this payout to be distributed on behalf of minors who were affected, mostly to those who were 6 years old or younger at the time of potential lead exposure. Another 18 percent will be distributed to impacted adults for both exposure and property damage, with the remaining 2 percent being earmarked for special education services in Genesee County. When added together with previous aid for replacing lead service lines and emergency response funds, the state will have contributed over $1 billion to victims if the settlement is approved as is. Even though the state has agreed to the settlement, some private defendants that were part of the case, such as the engineering firms that had a role in the crisis, did not sign on to the agreement, allowing the plaintiff lawsuits against them to continue.
At long last, after years of suffering by the residents of Flint, this settlement facilitated by AG Nessel will provide much deserved compensation to victims who were devastated by negligent actions that compromised their water supply. While this will not entirely rectify the wrongs done onto these residents, it puts an end to their ongoing legal struggles while acknowledging responsibility by the state.