A major hurdle for civil federal Flint water crisis suits was cleared today, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the claims of constitutional violations brought by the plaintiffs in two major suits are not blocked by measures written into the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
The two suits had originally been dismissed by federal district Judge John Corbett O’MEARA, who ruled mechanisms in the SDWA prevented the plaintiffs from bringing claims of constitutional violations (See “Federal Court Cleaning House In Number Of Flint Suits,” 2/7/17). The three-judge federal appellate panel unanimously reversed that determination.
“In the context of the SDWA and its text and legislative history, we find that the remedial schemes in the SDWA are not so comprehensive as to demonstrate congressional intent to preclude remedies under § 1983 for constitutional violations,” federal appellate Judge Jane STRANCH wrote in the opinion, joined by Judges R. Guy COLE and Bernice DONALD. Not all their claims survived, though. The state along with its officials and departments.
Michael PITT, an attorney representing the Mays plaintiffs, who was also recently appointed interim colead counsel for all the class-action suits in federal district court, told MIRS the ruling “is really the locomotive now that is going to drive this litigation to a successful conclusion.” “The people of Flint have a great victory today and we’re proud and happy that the people of Flint are finally going to get some justice out of this situation,” Pitt said.
Pitt declined to speculate on whether the ruling could mean the state might seek to resolve the case out of court. “There’s always the possibility of a settlement and I’m hopeful that this will be an icebreaker,” he said. “But we’re prepared to litigate this as long and as hard as necessary to get to the result that we anticipate.”