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Flint Residents Reach Settlement with Water Engineering Firm

Reviewed by: Paul F. Novak
February 1, 2024
Home Firm News Flint Residents Reach Settlement with Water Engineering Firm

On February 1, 2024, Flint Michigan property owners, businesses, and adults, reached a $25 million settlement with Veolia North America (VNA), the last private engineering firm Flint residents were seeking to hold accountable for its role in the devastating Flint water crisis. This settlement brings the total amount of the settlements reached on behalf of plaintiffs in the Flint Water Crisis cases to over $655 million. The settlement ends the last class action case against the remaining water engineering firms accused of negligence contributing to the Flint Water Crisis.

The case, a certified environmental water contamination class action, was scheduled to go to jury trial on February 13, 2024. The plaintiffs are represented by a host of law firms, including Weitz & Luxenberg, Goodman Hurwitz & James, Law Offices of Teresa Bingman, Law Offices of Deborah Labelle, Cynthia M Lindsey & Associates, Motley Rice, Susman Godfrey, and Bronstein Gewirtz & Grossman. The class action was organized under the leadership of Court-appointed Co-Lead Counsel Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, and Pitt McGehee Palmer Bonanni & Rivers.

The class action case was filed in 2016 against VNA and other defendants on behalf of more than 90,000 residents. The class action, which resulted in a landmark $626.25 million settlement against the State of Michigan in 2021, was officially certified against VNA and a second private water engineering company, Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN), in August 2021. LAN settled with residents last October.

The certified class action maintained that VNA failed to identify corroding pipes — exacerbating the Flint water crisis — and allowed the water contamination to last much longer than it should have, had Veolia recommended the correct remediation — including adding a corrosive chemical to the water supply.

After negotiating the class settlement, the parties also were able to resolve the claims brought by minor claimants represented by class counsel. Under that settlement, those minor claimants will receive an additional payment on top of the amounts they will receive under the existing settlements.

“This settlement is one more step in obtaining justice for the citizens of Flint,” said Paul F. Novak, Managing Attorney of the Detroit office of Weitz & Luxenberg. “Our next priority will be to obtain judicial approval of the settlement and, upon approval, expeditiously disseminate settlement funds to the people of Flint.”

In 2015, the City of Flint hired Veolia to advise on the City’s decision to switch its water supply from the highly contaminated Flint River. Despite Flint residents raising concerns about the water’s smell, color, and taste — and even after a deadly Legionnaires disease outbreak — Veolia allegedly failed to give appropriate recommendations to the City and the public.

Class Plaintiffs alleged that Veolia negligently reported to the public that Flint’s water was “safe” at the same time that their internal email recognized that lead contamination was a problem. “There were glaring inconsistencies between what Veolia’s internal email communications identified as a problem and what they reported to the people of Flint,” Mr. Novak stated. “If Veolia’s reports to the people of Flint had been more candid, the Flint Water Crisis could likely have ended eight months earlier than it did,” he added.

Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. served as a court-appointed member of the Class Plaintiffs Executive Committee in the Flint Water class action case and was principally responsible for developing the evidentiary record concerning adverse health effects allegedly caused by the Flint Water Crisis. Weitz & Luxenberg attorneys Paul Novak and Gregory Stamatopoulos handled the Flint Water Crisis litigation for the firm.

Mr. Novak, along with Julie Hurwitz of the Goodman Hurwitz firm, had earlier argued successfully in the Michigan Supreme Court that exceptions to governmental immunity allowed Flint residents to seek recovery against state and local governmental agents for the Flint Water Crisis.

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