Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Supreme Court Decision Means Flint Residents Can Sue Over Water Crisis

Popular
People participate in a national mile-long march to highlight the push for clean water in Flint Feb. 19, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. Bill Pugliano / Stringer / Getty Images

The Supreme Court made a decision Tuesday that means Flint residents can sue state and local officials over the water crisis that leached lead into their water and resulted in at least 12 deaths.


City officials and state regulators argued that they had "qualified immunity" from being sued, but lower courts rejected this argument. By refusing to hear two cases related to the matter, the Supreme Court has upheld those rulings, NPR explained.

"It's time for the people of Flint to start feeling like they are going to get their day in court," lawyer Michael Pitt told Michigan Radio. "This just moves the entire process closer to that day."

Pitt is a co-lead counsel on a class action lawsuit filed by thousands of Flint residents seeking damages in the wake of the water crisis. The case which triggered the Supreme Court decision was filed by two Flint residents including mother Shari Guertin, who said she and her child were exposed to lead, Reuters reported.

The crisis began In 2014 when an emergency manager appointed by then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder switched the city's water supply to the Flint River. The improperly treated water leached lead and bacteria from the pipes, contaminating water and causing a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires' Disease. More than 25,000 Flint residents were harmed by exposure to lead or other contaminants, according to court records reported by Reuters. More than 5,000 of those individuals were children under the age of 12. No level of lead exposure, which can harm children's cognitive development, is considered safe.

Government officials at first said the contaminated water was safe, but admitted 18 months later that it was not, according to NPR. The city's water supply was finally switched to Lake Huron. The supply did not meet federal safety standards until late in 2016.

"They have been denied justice," Pitt told Michigan Radio of his clients.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled that the officials were not immune from lawsuits.

"Knowing the Flint River water was unsafe for public use, distributing it without taking steps to counter its problems, and assuring the public in the meantime that it was safe is conduct that would alert a reasonable person to the likelihood of personal liability," the lower court ruled, as CNN reported. "Any reasonable official should have known that doing so constitutes conscience-shocking conduct prohibited by the substantive due process clause."

The officials had argued they should be immune because they could not have known they would be sued for doing the best they could with the information they had, according to Reuters.

"Allowing the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling to stand (means the Supreme Court decided the lower court's) reasoning was strong, appropriate and well-researched," Guertin's lawyer Paul Geske told Michigan Live.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Samantha Hepburn

In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.

Read More Show Less
Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana. Anthony / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.

Read More Show Less
Andrey Nikitin / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst

Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.

Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.

Read More Show Less
A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less
The office of Rover.com sits empty with employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 in Seattle, Washington. John Moore / Getty Images

The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.

Read More Show Less
Frederic Edwin Church's The Icebergs reveal their danger as a crush vessel is in the foreground of an iceberg strewn sea, 1860. Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Esben Østergaard, co-founder of Lifeline Robotics and Universal Robots, takes a swab in the World's First Automatic Swab Robot, developed with Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu, professor at the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute at The University of Southern Denmark. The University of Southern Denmark

By Richard Connor

The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.

Read More Show Less