The State of Michigan and counsel for the plaintiffs announced on Thursday that they reached a settlement for cases filed against the state regarding the lead-tainted water system in Flint, Mich., after “more than 18 months of intense negotiations.” The state agreed to pay $600 million to a fund that will be allocated to individuals and businesses who suffered due to the poor water quality.
The lawsuits were filed against the state after the Flint water supply was switched to the Flint River on April 25, 2014, and water in homes became contaminated from lead in old water lines being used. The Eastern District of Michigan case is being heard by Judge Judith E. Levy.
According to the settlement, 79.5 percent of the funds will go towards the plaintiffs who are minor children, 18 percent will go towards cases involving adults and property damage, 0.5 percent will go towards businesses who suffered economic losses, and 2 percent will go towards programmatic relief.
Cory M. Stern with Levy Konigsberg, LLP, counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, said “kids will be honored by being treated as individuals, not as a class, meaning their injuries will be assessed on a case by case basis, with the most damaged receiving the most compensation.” Stern said in a press release that the settlement recognizes the broader effects of the Flint Water Crisis and praised the decision-making which led to the settlement, despite divisiveness in the communities.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer called the uncertainty Flint residents have encountered “unconscionable” and said that the state is working to help the city and the state clean drinking water and create higher standards. The release said the state will continue to work through details of the settlement and keep citizens of Flint informed, specifically through a website dedicated to the settlement.
“What happened in Flint should have never happened, and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of the many ways we can continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families,” said Governor Whitmer in a press release, adding that protecting access to clean water is a priority of the current administration.
The state has previously spent over $400 million replacing pipes and providing filters, bottled water, and health care according to the Associated Press.
“We acknowledge that this settlement may not completely provide all that Flint needs, and that many will still feel justifiable frustration with a system and structure that at times is not adequate to fully address what has happened to people in Flint over the last six years. We hear and respect those voices and understand that healing Flint will take a long time, but our ongoing efforts and today’s settlement announcement are important steps in helping all of us move forward,” Governor Whitmer said in the release.