In re Flint Water Cases

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
Citation499 F.Supp.3d 399
Docket NumberCase 5:16-cv-10444-JEL-MKM
Parties IN RE FLINT WATER CASES. This Order Relates to: All Cases
Decision Date21 January 2021

499 F.Supp.3d 399


This Order Relates to: All Cases

Case 5:16-cv-10444-JEL-MKM

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division.

Signed January 21, 2021

499 F.Supp.3d 407

Brian J. McKeen, McKeen Assoc., Gregory Stamatopoulos, Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., Julie H. Hurwitz, Kathryn Bruner James, Goodman and Hurwitz, P.C., Claire D'Lou Vergara, McKeen & Associates, PC, Detroit, MI, Adam T. Schnatz, McAlpine PC, Auburn Hills, MI, Channing E. Robinson-Holmes, Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers, P.C., Royal Oak, MI, Conrad J. Benedetto, The Law Offices of Conrad J. Benedetto, Philadelphia, PA, David J. Shea, Shea Law Firm PLLC, Southfield, MI, Deborah A. LaBelle, Ann Arbor, MI, Elliot M. Schaktman, Marc J. Bern & Partners LLP, New York, NY, Emmy L Levens, Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC, Washington, DC, Esther Berezofsky, Motley Rice, LLC, Cherry Hill, NJ, Hunter Shkolnik, NSPR Law Services, LLC, Hato Rey, PR, Jayson E. Blake, McAlpine PC, Auburn Hills, MI, John McNeill Broaddus, Weitz & Luxenberg PC, Cherry Hill, NJ, Jordan W. Connors, Katherine M. Peaslee, Susman Godfrey L.L.P., Seattle, WA, Justin Adatto Nelson, Susman Godfrey, Houston, TX, Keith L. Altman, The Law Office of Keith Altman, Farmington Hills, MI, Marie Napoli, Napoli Shkolnik Law PLLC, Peretz Bronstein, Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman LLC, New York, NY, Mark L. McAlpine, McAlpine & McAlpine, Auburn Hills, MI, Michael L. Pitt, Pitt, McGehee, Royal Oak, MI, Michael J. Quirk, Motley Rice LLC, Philadelphia, PA, Paul F. Novak, Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., William H. Goodman, Goodman and Hurwitz, Detroit, MI, Stephen E. Morrissey, Susman Godrey L.L.P., Seattle, WA, Theodore J. Leopold, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Jessica B. Weiner, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Washington, DC, for In re Flint Water Cases.


JUDITH E. LEVY, United States District Judge

Before the Court is Plaintiffs’ motion to establish settlement claims procedures and allocation and for preliminary approval of class settlement components (ECF No. 1318) and Individual Plaintiffs’ motion for an order adopting the proposed motion for approval of wrongful death settlement. (ECF No. 1334).

Plaintiffs are thousands of children, adults, property owners, and business

499 F.Supp.3d 408

owners who allege they were exposed to lead, legionella , and other contaminants from the City of Flint's municipal water supply. The events that resulted in this large-scale municipal water contamination are now known as the Flint Water Crisis. In their lawsuits, both the putative class members and Individual Plaintiffs allege that Defendants caused, prolonged, concealed, ignored, or downplayed the risks of Plaintiffs’ exposure to the City's water, which injured Plaintiffs and damaged their property and commercial interests.

The settlement before the Court is a partial settlement and therefore does not represent the end of the Flint Water Crisis litigation. It would allow recovery of monetary awards for persons (children and adults) exposed to Flint water during a specified exposure period, along with property owners, renters, and business owners. Specifically, the settlement provides the opportunity for monetary awards for every person exposed while a minor child; every adult exposed with a resultant injury; every residential property owner, renter, or person responsible for paying Flint water bills; and certain business owners impacted during the relevant time period.

The proposed settlement creates a comprehensive settlement program that will address all individually represented persons and all Minors1 (both represented and unrepresented). It also provides a ‘class action’ resolution for those adults who have not hired their own lawyer. The compensation process and timeline are the same for every person—and the amount of money that a claimant will receive is based on objective factors such as age, exposure to the water, test results, specific identified injuries, property ownership or lease, payment of water bills, and commercial losses. Significantly, the compensation will be the same for similarly situated individuals and entities—regardless of whether they are represented, unrepresented, or are a member of the ‘class.’

This motion is Plaintiffs’ first step towards resolving their claims against the "Settling Defendants": the State of Michigan and its individual officials;2 the City of Flint, three Emergency Managers, and several City employees;3 the "McLaren Defendants," which are McLaren Health

499 F.Supp.3d 409

Care Corporation, McLaren Regional Medical Center, and McLaren Flint Hospital; and Rowe Professional Services Company ("Rowe"). It does not resolve all of the Flint Water Cases, and the first round of bellwether trials against the non-settling Defendants are currently set for June 4, 2021.4

The Court's role at the preliminary approval stage is circumscribed. The Court may not rewrite the settlement but may only reject it or grant it preliminary approval. Generally, a settlement between an adult plaintiff and a defendant does not require court approval. But because this settlement presents a hybrid structure that includes a class component for unrepresented adults—and involves a substantial number of potential claims of Minors—preliminary approval of certain aspects of the proposed settlement is both appropriate and necessary.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants preliminary approval of this settlement. This approval will trigger a period of time in which minors, adults, property owners/renters, and commercial entities may decide whether to participate in the settlement. If a qualifying person or entity chooses to register as a participant, they may then formally object to aspects of the settlement and set forth any reasons why it should not be afforded final approval. Participants may also proceed with their litigation against the non-settling Defendants and, if summary judgment is sought and denied, be heard in front of a jury.5

The Court has heard from some Flint residents who have expressed frustration with aspects of this settlement. Though the Court's role in responding to these concerns is limited, these impacted individuals may join the settlement and still continue in the political process to seek the justice they have told the Court this settlement does not provide. Those affected will have to decide whether the risks of litigation—and there are many—outweigh the benefit of a certain resolution with the Settling Defendants. The Court is sympathetic to the complexity of these decisions. Indeed, there may be no amount of money that would fully recognize the harm the residents of Flint have experienced, including their anxiety, fear, distrust, and anger over the events of last seven years. Litigation has its benefits, but also its limitations, and the preliminary approval of this settlement does not affect or preclude other avenues of redress. This litigation—however it concludes—need not be the final chapter of this remarkable story.

To grant preliminary approval, the Court must determine whether the proposed Master Settlement Agreement (the "MSA") is within the range of possible final approval. Specifically, at this stage, the Court is to review the procedures related to Minors and Legally Incapacitated Individuals6 ("LIIs") to determine whether

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they are fair and in the best interests of Minors and LIIs. And also, the Court must determine whether there is a sufficient basis to conditionally certify a settlement class and subclasses as proposed. The Court must determine whether the proposed settlement class and subclasses fall within the range of possible approval, appear to be fair, and are free of obvious deficiencies.

Preliminary approval, therefore, is the first step in the multi-stage settlement process. Before final approval can be granted, claimants will have an opportunity to evaluate whether it is in their best interests to join the settlement. They will also have an opportunity to object to the settlement and to opt out of the settlement (or, if they are not a class member, to simply reject the settlement) and proceed to litigate their claims individually.

Plaintiffs in three of the Flint Water Cases filed responses to the motion for approval: the Anderson Plaintiffs7 (ECF No. 1338); Plaintiffs Gradine Rogers and the Estate of Odie Brown (ECF No. 1340); and the Chapman Plaintiffs. (ECF No. 1341.) These filings will be addressed below.

On December 21, 2020, the Court held a hearing on these motions via video teleconference. The Honorable Christopher M. Murray of the Michigan Court of Claims and the Honorable Joseph J. Farah of Genesee County Circuit Court were in attendance. Also in attendance were the Special Master Deborah E. Greenspan and the Court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem Miriam Z. Wolock.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants Plaintiffs’ motions.


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6 cases
  • In re Flint Water Cases, 5:16-cv-10444-JEL-EAS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • November 10, 2021
    ...Settlement Claims Procedures and Allocation and for Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement Components. See In re Flint Water Cases , 499 F. Supp. 3d 399 (E.D. Mich. 2021) (the "Preliminary Approval Order"). The relevant facts from that Order are as follows:In January 2018, the Court appoi......
  • Elmy v. Western Express, Inc., 3:17-cv-01199
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • July 27, 2021
    ...requirement, Plaintiffs must show “that the members of the class [are] capable of specific enumeration.” In re Flint Water Cases, 499 F.Supp.3d 399, 425-26 (E.D. Mich. 2021) (quoting Cole v. City of Memphis, 839 F.3d 530, 542 (6th Cir. 2016) (emphasis in original). This requirement is satis......
  • In re Flint Water Cases, 5:16-cv-10444-JEL-EAS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • November 10, 2021
    ...Settlement Claims Procedures and Allocation and for Preliminary Approval of Class Settlement Components. See In re Flint Water Cases, 499 F.Supp.3d 399 (E.D. Mich. 2021) (the "Preliminary Approval Order"). The relevant facts from that Order are as follows: In January 2018, the Court appoint......
  • Strano v. Kiplinger Wash. Editors, Inc., 1:21-cv-12987
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • December 15, 2022
    ...court may only grant or deny preliminary approval; it may not modify or rewrite the proposed settlement. In re Flint Water Cases, 499 F.Supp.3d 399, 409 (E.D. Mich. 2021). Thus, a district court that finds that a proposed lead-plaintiff incentive award does not adequately ensure fairness to......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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