LANSING – Genesee County Circuit Court Chief Judge David J. Newblatt granted final judgment in the Flint water cases pending in state court, formally approving the state’s historic Flint water civil settlement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced. This follows an opinion issued on Friday, March 17, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which affirmed the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan’s approval of the settlement.
The state of Michigan will pay $600 million – along with $20 million from the city of Flint, through their insurer; $5 million from McLaren Regional Medical Center and $1.25 million from Rowe Professional Services Co. It will be the largest civil settlement in Michigan state history.
Lawyers who filed the suits are expected to get about a quarter of the settlement funds, although the exact amount won’t be known until a host of fees and costs are deducted.
It’s not unusual for lawyers to take sizable fees in contingency fee civil cases, in which they pay the up-front expenses of litigation with no guarantee they’ll win the case. But some Flint residents and legal advocates had balked at the size of lawyers’ fees and other settlement terms.
After lawyers take their cut, about 80 percent of the money will be reserved for people who were children when the crisis began.
The preliminary agreement specified that about 80 percent of the net settlement fund will be spent on claims of children who were minors when first exposed to the Flint River water, with a large majority of that amount to be paid for claims of children ages 6 and younger. Another 2 percent is to be earmarked for special education services in Genesee County. Roughly 18 percent of the net settlement funds are to be spent on claims of adults and for property damage. Finally, about 1 percent will go toward claims for business losses.
“This historic settlement cannot undo the unimaginable hardship and heartbreaking health effects these families and children in Flint have endured,” Nessel said. “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.”
Judge Judith E. Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan gave preliminary approval to the settlement in January 2021, which established the process through which Flint residents could indicate their intention to file eligible settlement claims that will be processed and paid by the claims administrator.
During the settlement’s three-day fairness hearing in July 2021, Judge Levy listened to arguments and objections to determine whether the settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable. She issued her ruling approving the settlement in November 2021.
The claims administrator will continue to review all claims and claims materials, a process that is being carefully monitored by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
More than 50,000 people have registered to file claims; a court-appointed administrator is now managing the review process. Co-lead counsel Ted Leopold said that the claimants could begin receiving payouts as soon as this fall.
Separate lawsuits are still in play against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two engineering firms that declined to join the settlement.