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Federal court hearing on Flint water settlement over, wait for ruling continues

(WJRT)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 5:10 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Flint residents gave one final push as a federal judge decides the fate of the $641.2 million Flint water crisis settlement.

Attorneys still are asking for about $202 million from the fund, which left a lot of people upset over nearly a third of the money going to attorneys rather than victims. Protesters called for a much smaller amount of legal counsel during a rally Tuesday outside the courthouse in downtown Flint.

Accusations were made that the attorneys took this case knowing they’d receive a “big payout in the end.” The attorneys told U.S. District Judge Judith Levy on Thursday that the characterization is unfair.

“You know sometimes the legal profession doesn’t look the greatest when these things come about. But I think that obscures the fact that the legal profession was able to negotiate the settlement in the first place and get this rather large pool of money,” said attorney Bill Brickley, who is not directly involved in the settlement.

The $641.2 million fund settles dozens of civil lawsuits filed after the Flint water crisis. The fund is comprised of $600 million from the state of Michigan, $20 million from Flint’s insurance carriers, $20 million from McLaren Flint Hospital and $1.2 million from Rowe Professional Services.

So far, the attorneys fighting on behalf of Flint residents haven’t been paid a cent for their work. They say legal counsel on behalf of plaintiffs have logged 182,000 hours of litigation over 5.5 years with two full years engaged in intense negotiations.

Attorneys say they took part in more than 100 depositions and reviewed millions of documents to arrive at the proposed settlement.

“There were significant legal hurdles that they had that they had overcome. There were significant factual hurdles they had to overcome, issues of causation,” said Brickley, who is president of the Genesee County Bar Association.

He said Levy now has to look through and confirm they did that work. She’ll look at what victims would receive if she were to approve the attorneys’ $202 million request.

“It’s not an unusual request,” Brickley said.

He pointed out that legal counsel usually receives about one-third of the payout for similar settlements and the Flint water attorneys representing residents are asking for a little less than that.

“She’s definitely putting in the time and effort and it’ll be interesting to see what’s happening,” Brickley said of Levy’s decision.

Everyone who signed up with an attorney for the Flint water lawsuits agreed to pay a percentage of the settlement to them.

It’s not clear when Levy will render a final decision on the settlement fund. She did call this “a very hard decision.”

After the settlement officially is approved, Flint residents can begin filing formal claims for a share of the fund. Registration for the settlement took place in March, so the next step for residents will involve providing proof that they were affected by the water crisis.

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