A Michigan judge has ruled [opinion, PDF] that Flint residents can sue state officials over the recent water crisis. In a 50-page opinion dated Wednesday and made public Thursday, Judge Mark Boonstra of the Michigan Court of Appeals [official website], found [Detroit News report] that citizens had provided sufficient facts against the state that, if proven, would show actions by the state were “so arbitrary in a constitutional sense, as to shock the conscience.” In the action, Flint residents sued Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan’s Departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services, and two former Flint emergency managers for their roles in the water crisis. Boonstra ultimately provided a mixed ruling where he dismissed some of the claims in the suit in favor of the state. In the lawsuit, Flint residents alleged [AP report] that state officials concealed data and made false statements about the crisis and that property values have dropped as a result of the water contamination. The state argued that the residents could not make a claim since it was filed later than six months after the crisis. However, the judge found this unpersuasive as the state itself did not admit the crisis until October 2015. Furthermore, the state argued that the Court of Claims lacked jurisdiction since the two emergency workers were not state officers. Boonstra found this to be incorrect as the workers acted in the capacity of state officers. The state has the option to appeal the decision.
Numerous lawsuits have been filed in response to the Flint water contamination crisis. In May the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People brought a lawsuit [JURIST report] against against Michigan officials for their action and inaction in Flint. A month prior a group of Flint residents filed an administrative complaint [JURIST report] against the Environmental Protection Agency for negligence in handling the Flint water crisis. David Leyton, a prosecutor in Genesee County, Michigan, announced in April that a Michigan judge would allow criminal charges [JURIST report] against three people involved in the water crisis in Flint, including the man who supervised the treatment plant as well as two state environmental officials. Earlier in April the city of Flint filed [JURIST report] an intent to sue letter with the state, claiming that the city lacks funds to defend itself against lawsuit filed during the water crisis. Hertz Schram PC, a southeastern Michigan firm, filed [JURIST report] a class action lawsuit in March on behalf of the children in Flint who were injured by exposure to the high levels of lead in the city’s drinking water.