Flint water attorney: City potentially faces billions in liability if council rejects settlement
He said the proposed $20 million share from the city’s insurers pale in comparison with what his clients could win
FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - An attorney representing thousands of plaintiffs in hundreds of lawsuits over the Flint water crisis believes the Flint City Council has its mission all wrong while deliberating whether to approve a $20 million settlement.
Attorney Corey Stern said he is representing nearly 4,000 people in about 500 lawsuits against the city and others allegedly responsible for the Flint water crisis. He said council members need to adjust their focus and think as a defendant rather than as a community advocate.
“The prudent, responsible thing to do looking out for the city is to pay $20 million in insurance money and limit your liability, limit your exposure going forward,” Stern said. “But if the council wants to be a giant cowboy on a horse and think it’s a white horse that they’re riding for my clients and my clients deserve more money, I salute them. I say thank you. And my hope is to take as much as I can from the city of Flint, because they bear significant responsibility for what happened during the water crisis.”
Flint’s insurers have proposed adding $20 million to other proposed settlements of $600 million from the state of Michigan, $20 million from McLaren Flint Hospital and $1.2 million from Rowe Professional Services. However, council members have delayed a decision on whether to approve the city’s share several times this month.
They are planning to meet again Monday evening and potentially vote on the settlement. Stern has followed the council’s deliberations closely and even took questions from council members late into the evening earlier this month.
Stern believes the city’s $20 million share of the proposed $641.2 million settlement is a good outcome for the council from a legal liability perspective. The city’s portion of the settlement would come from its insurance carriers rather than tax dollars.
“They should be evaluating it as if every one of my clients is going to go to trial and how much is each one of my clients going to get and where will that money come from,” Stern said.
Stern pointed out that Flint city government bears significant responsibility for the water crisis because a city official flipped a switch drawing water out of the Flint River and city employees falsified documents that downplayed the severity of lead poisoning in the drinking water.
“The city of Flint through its employees did really bad stuff,” he said.
He predicted that Flint’s potential liability could soar into the hundreds of millions or over $1 billion if city council members pass on the $20 million settlement, which would bar any future water crisis lawsuits against the city. Without the settlement, lawsuits against the city would proceed.
“If the city didn’t like emergency managers in 2014 or 2013, it’s surely not going to like it in 2020 or 2021. But that’s what’s coming down if we get to go to trial in every one of these cases against the city,” Stern said.
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