Products Liability Law Daily Michigan backs $600M preliminary settlement of Flint Rivercivil lawsuits
Friday, August 21, 2020

Michigan backs $600M preliminary settlement of Flint Rivercivil lawsuits

By Leah S. Poniatowski, J.D.

Children exposed to lead-contaminated drinking water will receive bulk of fund.

Families and businesses exposed to lead and other hazardous substances in their water supply entered into a preliminary settlement agreement with the state of Michigan, which agreed to contribute $600 million to a settlement fund (Settlement Agreement, August 20, 2020).

As largely reported by the media, the residents of the city of Flint, Michigan were seriously impacted by a water crisis that came to a head in 2016. According to a press release from the law firm representing families in the lawsuit against the state, the local water supply was contaminated with lead and other hazardous substances after the government decided to change the water supply source. Families and businesses filed lawsuits against the state, reaching a preliminary agreement after 18 months of negotiation.

Settlement agreement. According to the preliminary agreement, the state of Michigan will pay $600 million into a qualified settlement fund. Those affected during the exposure period, which began April 25, 2014, are eligible to receive money from the fund. Minor children will receive almost 80 percent of the fund, with the largest percentages going to those aged 6 years and younger at the time of their first exposure to Flint water. Minors also will be able to recover without proof of personal injury, but those who can show personal injuries or exposure to lead will receive larger compensation. Additionally, the fund will support local school districts with financing for special education services.

Adults are eligible for 18 percent of the fund with proof of personal injury and are also eligible for compensation for property damage. Businesses are eligible for 0.5 percent of the fund. Prospective claimants must comply with the filing process and requirements established by the settlement.

Moreover, preliminary conditions must be met in order for the settlement to be finalized, and the parties expect to meet those conditions within the following 45 days. If the conditions are not met within 60 days, the settlement can be canceled and rescinded by either party.

Additional defendants. According to a release from Michigan’s attorney general, entities other than the state have not yet joined the agreement, including the engineering consultants also being sued by the attorney general. The preliminary agreement makes provision for these entities to join in the settlement, which would increase the amount of money payable to those affected.

Supporting efforts. According to a statement from Michigan’s governor, in addition to the settlement, the state has undertaken several other measures, including helping Flint replace the service lines, funding several programs to help children and others impacted by the contamination, investments to clean up drinking water, introduction of strict water quality standards, and the creation of the Office of Clean Water Advocacy.

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