Complaint in Genesee County Circuit Court asks for Injunction against Water Shut-offs, Declaration that Water Users who Received Dangerous Water are Not Responsible for Paying Bills
FLINT, Mich., Jan. 19, 2016— A group of Flint residents have filed two new class-action lawsuits against Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and additional government officials.
The Genesee County Circuit Court lawsuit requests that Circuit Court Judge Archie Hayman enjoin the City of Flint from water shut-offs and that he declare that the Flint water users are not required to pay past or future bills for useless and harmful water.
In the Court of Claims case filed on Friday January 15, 2016, the injured citizens seek to hold the State of Michigan financially accountable for this man-made catastrophe. Those class members who owned property in the City are claiming an unjust and unconstitutional taking of their property without fair compensation. Known as an inverse condemnation action, the State, by its actions, destroyed or impaired the property values in Flint and must be held accountable to cover the losses in property value.
The new class actions focus on the conduct of the MDHHS. In June through September 2014, MDHHS had in its possession reports that indicated a dramatic increase in elevated blood lead levels of the children of Flint and it knew that this spike correlated precisely with the exposure to the lead laced Flint River drinking water. The Department had information that there was a public health emergency yet sat of the information for more than 10 months. The lead poisoning of many of Flint’s children could have been avoided if the Department had shared with the public this vital information.
The new class actions also focus on the serious harm caused by the prolonged and repeated false assurances made by public officials to the public that the Flint River water was safe to drink and use. These false assurances caused many people to experience serious health effects when they unnecessarily consumed toxic river water—serious health conditions which could have been avoided by simply telling the public the truth about the toxicity of the water they were encouraged to drink.
The complaints also point out similar behavior on the part of the MDHHS in not reporting a major spike in the outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. It remains to be seen how many lives could have been saved if the MDHHS had shared the information with the public in a timely fashion.
“Tens of thousands of Flint residents were unnecessarily injured and hundreds of millions of property damage resulted due to the deliberate indifference of a handful of state, city and county officials,” said Michael Pitt, co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “Public officials must never again be permitted to give assurances to the public about public health conditions when they know the assurances are false. Public officials must never again be permitted to ruin the lives of our children by remaining silent in the face of a public health emergency,” Pitt said.
“The attention of the state and the country are finally focused on Flint and there is outrage. But this public outrage doesn’t mean the affected residents will be fairly compensated for their injuries and damages. They will still be here long after the media has gone and we want to help to ensure that they receive just and fair compensation,” Pitt said.
The legal team representing the Flint residents includes Michael Pitt, Cary McGehee, Peggy Pitt and Beth Rivers (Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers); Bill Goodman, Julie Hurwitz and Kathryn Bruner James (Goodman and Hurwitz); Trachelle Young (Trachelle C. Young & Associates) and Deborah LaBelle (Law Offices of Deborah A. LaBelle).
Michigan Court of Claims complaint:
Genesee County Circuit Court complaint: Available at event and on PR Newswire version of release.