FORMER GOVENOR RICK SNYDER REINSTATED AS DEFENDANT IN FLINT RESIDENTS' CLASS ACTION SUIT
April 4, 2019
FLINT – Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was reinstated today as a defendant in the class action lawsuit brought by victims of the Flint Water Crisis. Gov. Snyder, as well as other government defendants in the suit, face charges of violating Flint citizens' right to bodily integrity as protected under the 14th Amendment. In late 2018, the residents supplemented the facts alleging Snyder's wrongdoing and asked U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy to reconsider her decision removing Snyder as a defendant. In her ruling today, Judge Levy noted that "the allegations plausibly
describe 'conscience shocking' conduct."
"We are grateful that the Court agrees former Governor Snyder should be held accountable for his role in the Flint water crisis," said Theodore J. Leopold, Partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and co-lead Plaintiffs' attorney. "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, as well as private contractors, and we hope to provide a measure of justice and some much-needed relief to those still struggling to recover."
"We know that former Governor Snyder's administration was well aware of the emerging public health issues in Flint and we're pleased that the Court recognized today that he must face justice for that," 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."
In her ruling issued this morning, Judge Levy noted that:
"[P]laintiffs plausibly state that the Governor acted indifferently to the risk of harm they faced, demonstrating a callous disregard for their right to bodily integrity. This indifference manifested itself in two ways. Initially, the Governor was indifferent because instead of mitigating the risk of harm caused by the contaminated water, he covered it up. In private, he worried about the need to return Flint to DWSD water and the political implications of the crisis. But in public, he denied all knowledge, despite being aware of the developing crisis.
As a result, plaintiffs were lured into a false sense of security. They could have taken protective measures, if only they had known what the Governor knew. Instead, the Governor misled them into assuming that nothing was wrong. Governor Snyder's administration even encouraged them to continue to drink and bathe in the water."
The Amended Complaint included 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 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.