Flint residents file multiple lawsuits over lead contamination

DETROIT -- One lawsuit seeks to replace lead-leaching water lines at no cost to customers. Another seeks money for thousands of Flint residents who unwittingly drank toxic water.

See Full Article

A third complaint has been filed on behalf of people with Legionnaires' disease.

While government officials scramble to rid Flint's tap water of lead, victims are suing Gov. Rick Snyder, the former mayor, rank-and-file public employees and almost anyone else who may have had a role in supplying the troubled city with corrosive river water for 18 months. The lawsuits accuse them of violating civil rights, wrecking property values and enriching themselves by selling a contaminated product.

"How can they look at themselves in the mirror?" asked New York attorney Hunter Shkolnik, who filed the latest lawsuit Monday on behalf of 2-year-old Sophia Waid. "It's an embarrassment for government officials to take the safety of their citizens so lightly."

Sophia's father, Luke Waid, said he feared losing custody of his daughter when blood tests revealed that she had elevated levels of lead. Those tests were done long before Flint's tap water was identified as the culprit in 2015.

Lead affects the central nervous system, especially in children aged 6 and younger, and can cause learning problems and hyperactivity.

"She's constantly on edge," Waid said of his daughter. "It's almost like she's suffering some kind of anxiety."

His lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified financial award, is one of at least seven complaints involving Flint in state and federal courts. It's the first by Shkolnik and Detroit co-counsel Brian McKeen, but the lawyers plan more. Separately, 1,700 households have contacted Michael Pitt's Detroit-area firm about joining the class-action case he filed in November.

The city's supply was switched from Detroit water to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure in 2014, when Flint was under state-appointed emergency management. While key facts are undisputed -- the untreated river water caused lead to leach from old pipes -- these cases still are no slam-dunk for lawyers specializing in personal injury.

State government has defences, especially a long-recognized cloak of immunity in certain lawsuits, said Chris Hastings, who teaches at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

"Defence lawyers aren't going to come in and say these cases don't have any merit based on the facts," Hastings said. "They're going to come in with narrow, technical defences that exist regardless of those issues. Courts are good at setting the emotions aside and looking at the law."

But, he said, victims can point to "gross negligence" as a path around governmental immunity.

"That's probably the best angle," Hastings said. "But it's likely, with the wide net that's cast, that a number of defendants will still have a 'we-didn't-do-it' defence."

No substantial responses have been filed. In one lawsuit, a federal judge has granted a request from the attorney general's office to give Snyder and state employees more time to explore legal defences.

Snyder spokesman Dave Murray declined to comment, saying it would be inappropriate for the governor's office to discuss pending litigation.

In 2013, a judge rejected a class-action lawsuit in the District of Columbia on behalf of children who may have been exposed to lead in water in Washington. The lawsuit said the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority hid elevated lead levels from customers and federal authorities between 2001 and 2004, and failed to take steps to remedy the situation.

The complaint followed a study by Children's National Medical Center and Virginia Tech that determined hundreds of children were at risk of health and development problems linked to lead. Virginia Tech is also involved in studies of Flint water.

Separately, attorney Geoffrey Fieger is suing a hospital and various public officials over Legionnaires' disease, not lead. Genesee County had an extraordinary spike in cases of the waterborne lung disease while Flint was relying on the Flint River for its water supply -- at least 87 confirmed illnesses, including nine deaths.

"The more I read and learn about this, the angrier I get. ... I can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch this debacle unfold," said Fieger, who is representing three people who survived pneumonia and the family of a fourth who died.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Murder trial to begin for Edmonton man charged in warehouse stabbings

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- A jury trial is to begin today for an Edmonton man accused of killing two co-workers and wounding several others in a bloody knife attack at a grocery warehouse. Jayme Pasieka, who is 32, is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons-related counts. Source
  • At least 5 killed in Pakistan courthouse attack

    World News CBC News
    A group of suicide bombers struck outside a courthouse in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing five people in an attack claimed by a Taliban splinter group. The attack was the latest in a wave of militant assaults across the troubled country that has killed over 100 people since last week. Source
  • Search ongoing for missing snowboarders at B.C. resort

    Canada News CBC News
    Rescue crews are searching for at least four snowboarders missing at a ski resort near Kamloops, B.C. Alan Hobler with Kamloops Search and Rescue (KSAR) says the snowboarders went out of bounds at Sun Peaks on Monday afternoon. Source
  • 4 skiers, snowboarders missing near Kamloops, B.C. ski resort

    Canada News CTV News
    KAMLOOPS, B.C. -- Rescue crews have found 3 of 7 people who went missing Monday at a ski resort near Kamloops, B.C. Alan Hobler with Kamloops Search and Rescue says the two snowboarders and five skiers went out of bounds at Sun Peaks and into a hazardous gully where they could end up stranded or in a creek. Source
  • Ivanka Trump issues call for tolerance after Jewish centre threats in U.S.

    World News CBC News
    Several Jewish community centres (JCC) across the United States were evacuated for a time on Monday after receiving bomb threats, the latest wave of threatened attacks against them this year, the national umbrella organization said. Some 11 centres including those in the Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee areas received phoned-in bomb threats that were later determined to be hoaxes, said David Posner, a director at JCC Association of North America who advises centres on security. Source
  • Venomous snakes stolen in Niagara break-in, police say

    Canada News CBC News
    Police in the Niagara Region are hunting for a number of venomous snakes. Niagara Region police say the reptiles were stolen on Saturday evening when a home was broken into in Thorold. The stolen snakes include several juvenile cobra species, rattlesnakes, adders and vipers, and a pregnant albino boa. Source
  • Kim Jong Nam death investigation is impartial, Malaysian diplomat says

    World News CTV News
    BEIJING - The investigation into the death of the exiled half-brother of North Korea's ruler is being conducted in an impartial manner, Malaysia's ambassador to Pyongyang said Tuesday, rejecting accusations from the North that the probe was politically tinged. Source
  • Venomous snakes stolen from Ontario home

    Canada News CTV News
    THOROLD, Ont. - Police in the Niagara Region of southern Ontario are hunting for a number of venomous snakes. Niagara Region police say the reptiles were stolen on Saturday evening when a home was broken into in Thorold. Source
  • 5 believed dead after plane hits Australian mall [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MELBOURNE, Australia — Five people were believed killed when a light plane crashed in flames into a shopping mall on Tuesday in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said. The five were on a twin-engine Beechcraft Super King Air that crashed about 45 minutes before the Direct Factory Outlet mall in suburban Essendon was to open, Police Minister Lisa Neville said. Source
  • 'My life is ruined': Parents of man killed in B.C. kidnapping open up for first time

    Canada News CBC News
    It was September 29, 2015 when Cang Sun got a phone call from his son's kidnapper. Sun was in the process of wire-transferring another instalment of the ransom for his son, Peng Sun, toward the $2.5 million demanded by the kidnapper, when his phone rang. Source