LANSING – A preliminary agreement in the Flint water-related civil lawsuits has been reached, offering a State of Michigan-backed settlement of $600 million to parties who claim they were affected by the city of Flint’s 2014 transition of its public water supply to the Flint River, with the majority of the money going to settle claims filed on behalf of children.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced today that the settlement has been agreed to by the State parties and the plaintiffs’ legal counsel following more than 18 months of negotiations. Several steps must be taken before money will be disbursed.
A summary of the preliminary settlement has been released to the public. Complete details will be made available once the formal settlement is completed, which is expected within about 45 days. That agreement, along with additional documents filed with the Court, will provide more details surrounding the settlement and outline the process for claimants going forward. Approval of the settlement agreement must also be given by U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy, Michigan 1st District Court of Appeals Judge Christopher Murray and Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Farah.
Additional defendants named in plaintiffs’ lawsuits have not signed on to the settlement agreement with the State, and the plaintiffs’ lawsuits against those entities will continue. Included among those entities are the engineering consultants, Veolia North America and Lockwood, Newnam & Andrews, who are also being sued by the Attorney General for their role in affecting the water supply. The State hopes that some of those entities will join the settlement within the next 45 days.
“Providing relief for the people of Flint and resolving these long-standing legal disputes has been a top priority for me since taking office,” Nessel said. “Flint residents have endured more than most, and to draw out the legal back-and-forth even longer would have achieved nothing but continued hardship. This settlement focuses on the children and the future of Flint, and the State will do all it can to make this a step forward in the healing process for one of Michigan’s most resilient cities. Ultimately, by reaching this agreement, I hope we can begin the process of closing one of the most difficult chapters in our State’s history and writing a new one that starts with a government that works on behalf of all of its people.”
The preliminary agreement specifies that about 80 percent of the net settlement fund will be spent on claims of children who were minors when first exposed to the Flint River water, with a large majority of that amount to be paid for claims of children age 6 and younger, and earmarking 2 percent to go to special education services in Genesee County. Another 18 percent of the net settlement funds are to be spent on claims of adults and for property damage. Roughly 1 percent will go toward claims for business losses.
If the settlement is approved and funds are distributed to claimants, the State will have contributed over $1 billion to aid in the city’s relief and recovery efforts. Past contributions include a settlement agreement whereby $97 million was made available to replace all of the city’s lead service lines in its water system. To date, the state has spent more than $409 million in response to the Flint water emergency.
If the settlement receives final court approval, it is likely to be the largest in Michigan state government history, affecting tens of thousands of people and resolving more than a hundred cases in state and federal trial and appellate courts.
The amount of money to be paid to individual claimants won’t be determined until the claims process proceeds as it depends, in part, on the number of claims submitted and found to be eligible.
Additional details surrounding the settlement, including compensation categories, eligibility criteria, the claims process and more will be made available online when the settlement documents are completed.
Information will also be available on the Attorney General’s website.