The city of Flint will sue Michigan over its colossal water crisis. The city filed a letter of intent to sue the state of Michigan, and Flint’s top attorneys say it’s already bereft of funds to defend itself against lawsuits.
CNN reports that Flint’s newly appointed chief legal officer, Stacy Erwin Oakes, confirmed on Friday that the city filed a notice of intention to file suit for damage to the municipal water system and for related costs, most of which are legal.
Some state lawmakers and the governor’s office chastised Flint’s decision to sue Michigan, because they feel it would threaten collaborations with the city to fix Flint’s water problems.
— Jonathan Oosting (@jonathanoosting) April 1, 2016
The city’s mayor, Karen Weaver, said in a statement that the notice of Flint’s intention to sue Michigan was more of a legal move than an actual threat, because the city “would have forfeited its right to file a lawsuit in the future if I had not filed an official ‘Notice of Intention to File a Claim’ by the March 25 deadline.”
“I have no intention at this point of having the City of Flint sue the state,” Weaver explained.
Weaver added, “I need to preserve the city’s right to pursue legal remedy if it’s determined a lawsuit is necessary in the future.”
Over 50 lawsuits have been filed against Flint since January, accusing the city of being guilty of the water crisis and for not doing all it could during the 18 months in which Flint’s drinking water was the source of the polluted Flint River.
Flint River’s highly corrosive water wasn’t treated properly by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. As a result, lead service lines were corroded by the poor water quality, which resulted in lead leaking into the drinking water and poisoning households throughout Flint.
Corroded water led to the eventual brown water and high levels of E. coli, carcinogens, and other toxins. Flint residents reported painful rashes after showering. There are currently investigations into whether the polluted water is also responsible for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that killed 10 people.
As Bilbayoa added in its report, young children are especially vulnerable to lead-tainted water, because it can cause learning disabilities and behavioral issues.
Weaver was elected after running a campaign to address the water crisis. She has skewered the former administration for not inquiring enough about the Flint water crisis before. The crisis is dubbed a “manmade disaster,” and several city employees are named in multiple lawsuits.
In the letter of intention Flint to sue Michigan, the city says that as a result of the switch, “the city has suffered or will suffer damage to its municipal water distribution system, emergency response costs arising out of the declaration of a state of emergency” and “attendant ongoing medical claims.”
The letter continues that in switching the drinking water, it also caused the city to suffer lower property values, damage to its reputation, loss of business, and “significantly increased civil liability” for the city and city employees.
— The Root (@TheRoot) April 1, 2016
Oakes said the city is hard-pressed to answer lawsuits.
“I have 50-something cases that have been filed civilly against the city and city employees,” Oakes explained. “That is a cost.”
Oakes said that the office also needs to accommodate attorney services for anyone being deposed in a criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis. She says the city is coping with heavy legal hardships “that it did not bring upon itself.”
“That’s the injustice,” Oakes said. “Let’s stop the politics and think about the people.”
Oakes hopes an agreement will be made with Gov. Rick Snyder, adding that “it is our goal to work with the governor in every way possible.”
Michigan, however, had sent a letter to Flint requesting it withdraw the suit. It was the governor and parts of his administration that the public was outraged at for the Flint water crisis.
Snyder’s spokesperson, Ari Adler, issued a statement after learning that Flint was going to sue Michigan.
“Once the city sues the state, communicating officially will be much more difficult as every conversation will need to involve questions about whether or not lawyers need to be present. And, of course, an open dialogue is more difficult with anyone who has decided to take you to court rather than work together as partners to solve a problem.”
At this point, Flint isn’t actually going to sue Michigan. As Weaver explained, there was a deadline if one was ever going to be filed against the city. However, it doesn’t mean the city will follow through on it.
[Photo by Carlos Osorio/AP]