a step towards justice: flint residents can sue officials

January 22, 2020
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In April of 2014, what is now commonly known as the Flint Water Crisis began. Six years later, and residents of the Michigan city are still suffering without access to clean water despite endless calls for help. Year after year, Flint residents have been unable to sue for their rights because of a law protecting state regulators and city officials. These people in power were previously protected by “qualified immunity,” leaving them safe from being sued for their role in the water contamination crisis. At last, lower courts have ruled opposing this nonsense.

Flint officials insisted for 18 months that water from the Flint River was drinkable when, in reality, as finally admitted by these same officials, it was proven not. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court finally allowed Flint lawsuits to move forward, a big win for the Flint community and the first step towards justice. The class action lawsuit that was allowed, co-led by attorney Michael Pitt, grants thousands of Flint residents to sue for damages from the longstanding crisis. 

The lawsuit that was initially filed in 2016 was denied by the high court. It stated that officials including previous governor Rick Snyder, “acted indifferently to the risk of bodily harm that residents faced when they were exposed to high levels of lead and other contaminants after the city’s drinking water source was switched to draw from the Flint River in 2014.” While in public, Snyder pretended that there was no risk in consuming water from Flint River, while he privately worried about the need to return Flint to Detroit’s water system due to the developing crisis, according to U.S. District Judge Judith Levy in a 2019 ruling. He created a false sense of security that resulted in disease outbreak and the death of at least 12 people, not to mention hospitalizations for others. 

Now that they can, about 180 cities and town across the U.S. are taking action to remove harmful pipes.