Lawsuits from Flint Water Crisis Could Cost Michigan Taxpayers

The Detroit Free Press reported Sunday that at least a dozen lawsuits have been filed in local,?state and federal courts on behalf of Flint residents who drank lead-tainted water for nearly two years. The complaints?name?a long list of state and local agencies and officials, from Gov. Rick Snyder to Flint city employees.

Some of the suits seek?to hold Snyder and others personally liable for damages. They?could also face criminal charges as state and federal prosecutors investigate how Flint’s water was poisoned.

The lawsuits could cost?Michigan taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

?The only deep pocket in the vicinity of Flint is the State of Michigan,? Peter?Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor told the Detroit Free Press. ?This could be a tax liability on the citizens of Michigan. This is the worst nightmare when a bureaucracy goes completely off the rails and makes decisions that cause widespread harm.?

Lawyers in two cases say they?re seeking multimillion-dollar awards. One seeks $100 million from a Flint hospital for victims of Legionnaires? disease and the other seeks?at least?$500 million from an engineering company Flint hired?to put its?water treatment plant into operation using Flint River water.?The?suit, which states the company was aware the water would be dangerous without proper anti-corrosive treatment, seeks damages for diminished property values.

The remaining?suits seek everything from replacement of the pipes that leached lead into Flint’s water supply to long-term medical monitoring and health care, a court-ordered monitor to oversee the city?s water operations, cancellation of all water bills since April 2014, when lawyers argue?Flint’s water supply became unfit to drink, and punitive damages against the state and other defendants.

Flint?s drinking water became contaminated in 2014 after its supply source was switched from Lake Huron water provided by what was then the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department?to the more polluted and corrosive Flint River,?while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The cost-cutting move?resulted in a spike in lead levels in children, which causes permanent brain damage.
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Although the state assisted the city in moving its source of drinking water back to Lake Huron water supplied by?Detroit in October, concerns about contamination remain because the more corrosive Flint River water damaged pipes and other infrastructure. Flint has roughly 500 miles of iron pipe that are about 75 years old, although that is an issue not unique to Flint.

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