MI Supreme Court says water crisis class action lawsuit can move forward

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 11:24 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - There was a big development in the Flint Water Crisis Wednesday afternoon.

“The city of Flint just got a major win,” said Flint attorney Trachelle Young.

“We got together and started working on the lawsuit September 2015. We filed January 2016, and it’s just been a constant back and forth of getting permission to sue,” said Flint activist and lead plaintiff Melissa Mays.

The Michigan Supreme Court sided with victims of the man-made public health crisis and said they can move forward with a class action lawsuit seeking compensation against former Governor Rick Snyder, former emergency managers and state agencies for the decisions that lead to the water crisis.

Young, who is also a mother, is both a victim of the crisis and representing others who were poisoned by the lead-tainted water.

“The supreme court affirmed the court of appeals decision that said Flint residents have a fundamental constitutional right to bodily integrity and also property rights,” Young said. “We had an inverse condemnation claim to claim that the state basically took property away from the residents, and they poisoned the residents. And we have a right not to be poisoned by people that we have elected to protect and to serve us.”

The court’s opinion is a key procedural step in long-running litigation that now will return to the Court of Claims. Justice Richard Bernstein says the case raises “some of the most disturbing allegations of malfeasance by government actors in Michigan’s history,” reported the Associated Press.

“It’s significant because of the message that it says to the residents of the city of Flint,” Young said.

“We’re having issues with the criminal side of justice but do not forget about the civil and the fact that we have personal and property damages we’re fighting for,” Mays said.

Mays says she was surprised by Republican nominee, Justice David Viviano, who agreed with the three Democratic nominees on the inverse-condemnation claim.

“It’s a reminder that this is not a political issue. It never should have been politicized. This is poisoned water, poisoning human lives. This is a human issue. It can happen to anybody. It doesn’t matter what party you subscribe to.”

Mays says she’ll celebrate, but the next step is to better inform the public about the decision as they get ready for the next phase of this fight.

“They are no longer able to run or hide. They have run out of time, and they have run out of places to go, so they now must give us our day in court or come to the table with a fair and reasonable settlement,” Young said.

“We need real resources to fix what was done to us, and again, reminding the people of Flint this wasn’t our fault,” Mays said.

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