Flint water victims seek to reinstate Gov. Snyder, senior state officials as defendants
(10/07/18) – Victims of the Flint Water Crisis have filed an Amended Complaint in their class action lawsuit, detailing new allegations concerning the role of some of Michigan’s highest state officials, including Governor Rick Snyder, in the ongoing public health crisis involving the Flint’s water. The new filing bolsters claims that Flint’s African American residents were denied equal protection under the law. Relying on new information that emerged during class action plaintiffs’ ongoing investigation and in the related criminal cases, the proposed Amended Complaint seeks to have Governor Snyder and other senior officials reinstated as defendants after a federal judge ruled earlier this year to narrow elements of the suit.
"The citizens of Flint were both forgotten and mistreated by those involved in the Flint water disaster. To this day, residents continue to suffer because of the reckless decisions of senior state and local officials,” said Theodore J. Leopold, Partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and co-lead Plaintiffs’ attorney. “We hope to restore as defendants the senior leaders responsible for responding to Flint’s water crisis and enforcing State and federal environmental laws to provide a measure of justice to those still struggling to recover and eventually some much-needed relief."
“We know now that when General Motors rejected the Flint River water in October of 2014 because it was damaging its machines, senior members of the Governor’s administration were well aware of the emerging public health issues,” said Michael L. Pitt, Partner at Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers and co-lead Plaintiffs’ attorney. “Rather than moving swiftly to protect the children and families of Flint, the state engaged in a cover-up which tragically led to preventable injuries and deaths of innocent Flint residents. Those responsible for creating and prolonging the Flint Water crisis will be held accountable.”
The Amended Complaint includes allegations questioning how Governor Snyder and his administration responded to the unfolding crisis. The complaint alleges that Snyder and his staff were aware of the health risks associated with the city’s transition to Flint River water, including the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, for months before an official announcement was made and that they concealed this information from the public. As Governor Snyder’s Chief of Staff wrote in an email, “the people there [in Flint] just seem to be getting a raw deal from the city, particularly in terms of the information they are getting.” Yet Snyder and his administration waited months to declare a state of emergency in Flint, depriving citizens of important resources.
The complaint also alleges that senior officials at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (“DEQ”), the state agency responsible for overseeing the supply of drinking water statewide, failed to comply with State and federal laws, as well as departmental policies. For example, DEQ allegedly granted a fraudulent administrative consent order in an effort to allow Flint to borrow millions of dollars despite being in receivership. The complaint further details how DEQ officials have failed to put in place a satisfactory non-discrimination policy despite being ordered to do so by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more than a year ago. This failure denied Flint’s African American citizens a fulsome procedure for challenging DEQ’s discriminatory conduct.
According to the proposed Amended Complaint, the government’s slow response may have been racially-motivated. The complaint alleges that “Governor Snyder and MDEQ treated Flint’s predominantly African-American citizens differently than other communities in Flint.” Flint’s African American community has suffered as a result of officials’ decision to ignore the very environmental laws they were charged with enforcing and deviate from established procedures all while working to protect the State’s predominantly white populations from similar catastrophes.
The victims allege that officials from the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, Genesee County and two private engineering firms created the public health crisis, having made calculated decisions that “deliberately exposed” residents of Flint to the harmful health effects of lead.
The lawsuit seeks to hold these officials and engineering firms accountable. In addition to financial relief, plaintiffs are asking the Court to require repairs to private property, the establishment of medical monitoring and appointment of a monitor who will assist in the development of other remedial plans including early education and intervention programs.
The case is Carthan v. Snyder, case number 5:16-cv-10444, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs are represented by national plaintiffs’ law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and Michigan civil rights law firm Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers.