The US Supreme court declined Tuesday to hear Flint, Michigan, officials’ appeal of a federal court’s decision in favor of Flint Water Crisis residents.
This refusal will allow the earlier decisions that held the city accountable to stand. In May, a federal appeals court upheld a 2017 federal district court’s decision that the city violated the constitutional bodily autonomy rights of its own citizens through allowing water containing lead and bacterial to enter the drinking water supply. The federal courts denied the city’s sovereign immunity.
Shari Guertin sued the City of Flint after she and her daughter suffered injuries related to the water contamination, and the city sought appeal from her case. Guertin is among an estimated 24,000 residents affected by the Flint Water Crisis. Judge Richard Allen Griffin of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit described the contaminated waters’ affects on the residents:
Within days, residents complained of foul smelling and tasting water. Within weeks, some residents’ hair began to fall out and their skin developed rashes. And within a year, there were positive tests for E. coli, a spike in deaths from Legionnaires’ disease, and reports of dangerously high blood-lead levels in Flint children. All of this resulted because the river water was 19 times more corrosive than the water pumped from Lake Huron by the DWSD, and because, without corrosion-control, lead leached out of the lead-based service lines at alarming rates and found its way to the homes of Flint’s residents. The crisis was predictable, and preventable.
The Supreme Court’s inaction will allow other victims of the Flint Water Crisis to sue the local and state government over the tragedy that dominated country-wide news coverage in 2014.