Judge gives final OK for $626 million Flint water crisis settlement

Tribune Content Agency

DETROIT — A Michigan judge has given final approval to the record-breaking $626 million Flint water crisis partial settlement with the state of Michigan and other entities, putting Flint residents a step closer to receiving financial compensation for the man-made disaster that began nearly a decade ago.

In a ruling on Monday, Genesee County Circuit Court Chief Judge David J. Newblatt granted final judgment in cases that were pending in the local court involving defendants who previously had agreed to settle with Flint residents. Newblatt’s order to dismiss the pending cases and to implement the settlement was one of the final procedural steps in the process.

The $626 million award includes $600 million from the state, $20 million award from the city, $5 million from McLaren Regional Medical Center and $1.25 million from private engineering company Rowe Professional Services Co. The settlement agreement was initially announced in August 2020.

According to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, the award marks the largest civil settlement in Michigan history.

“This historic settlement cannot undo the unimaginable hardship and heartbreaking health effects these families and children in Flint have endured,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement Tuesday.

“This ruling provides families with much needed compensation for the injuries they have suffered. I am proud of my team’s tireless work on behalf of the people of Flint.”

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy in the Eastern District of Michigan formally approved the settlement in January 2021. The settlement was subsequently challenged by about two dozen objectors, but their appeal was rejected last week. In that decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit sided with Levy and affirmed her ruling.

With the appeals court ruling and Newblatt’s final judgment granted now out of the way, Flint water crisis victims will be able to receive payment from the settlement fund once the claims review process is completed. More than 40,000 people submitted claims, which are being reviewed by a court-appointed special master. A majority of the funds will be allocated toward the city’s children, who were particularly vulnerable to the health effects of lead contamination.

Flint residents still have several multimillion-dollar lawsuits pending related to the water crisis, including cases against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two private engineering corporations, Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam.