On November 10, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy approved a $626.25 million class action settlement of claims against the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, and other private parties resulting from the lead poisoning of Flint’s drinking water. Relman Colfax served as subclass counsel for all children ages 12 to 18 who lived in Flint when the City began using the Flint River as its primary water source.
When Flint switched water systems in 2014, the chloride from road salt in the river water caused severe corrosion to Flint’s lead and cast-iron piping system, releasing lead and legionella into the municipal drinking water system. For roughly a year and a half—as the poisoned Flint water was pumped into homes, schools and businesses—City and State officials failed to respond to mounting evidence that the water was causing significant and lifelong harms to Flint’s children.
As counsel for the subclass of older children, Relman Colfax participated in the extensive negotiations regarding the process and factors for determining how settlement funds would be allocated to different groups with potentially divergent interests. Approximately 100,000 people lived in Flint at the time of the water crisis, and they were divided among several subclasses that included children, adults, property owners, and commercial businesses. The children living in Flint during the water crisis will receive approximately 80% of the funds going to class members and another 2% will be set aside to establish special education services for students affected by the water. Payments from the settlement will be based on formulas that will ensure larger amounts will go to children and those who can establish that they had elevated lead levels, cognitive deficits, and higher levels of exposure to the water. Judge Levy described the settlement as a “remarkable achievement” that represents “a fair and sensible resolution of the claims.”
Reed Colfax served as subclass counsel and the lead attorney for Relman Colfax in the matter.