Residents and businesses of Flint, Michigan, would be eligible for payments from a victim compensation fund under a $600 million preliminary settlement announced Thursday of civil lawsuits arising from the contamination of their drinking water with toxic lead.
“The residents of Flint were victims of horrendous decisions by the state, its employees, and other defendants that have resulted in tragic and devastating consequences," said Florida attorney Ted Leopold, who was appointed by a federal judge, along with Michigan attorney Michael Pitt, to lead class-action litigation that combined scores of individual lawsuits.
"While we can never undo the damage that occurred to the citizens and community of Flint, we are pleased that today we were able to secure a measure of justice."
Under the proposed settlement:
- Flint residents would be eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in payments from a court-monitored victim compensation fund, with nearly 80% of payments going to those who were under 18 at the time of the crisis, which began in April 2014. Children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead, which can affect brain development.
- Parties to the settlement would include "multiple governmental defendants," including the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and all individual state defendants, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who left office at the end of 2018.
- The state would create a dedicated fund to provide special education for students who suffer long-term health and behavioral damage from lead poisoning.
- Litigation would continue against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and private firms that were involved in the switch of Flint's drinking water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Those firms include environmental consultant Veolia North America and engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newman.
- About 65% of the money would go to Flint residents who were 6 and under when first exposed to lead in Flint water, with 10% going to those who were between the ages of 7 and 11 and 5% to those who were 12 to 17. About 15% would go to adults and 3% for property damage.
- Flint residents and businesses who wish to make claims for personal injuries should visit flintwaterjustice.com, according to attorneys involved in the case.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said 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."