Source: MIRS.news, Published 11/16/2023) A federal judge granted preliminary approval on Wednesday for an $8 million settlement in the Flint water crisis civil lawsuit from engineering firm Lockwood Andrews & Newnam (LAN).
The money adds to the $626.5 million already secured for Flint residents from the state, city of Flint, McLaren-Flint Hospital and Rowe Professional Services.
“LAN has settled the Flint water litigation, and while the terms of this settlement cannot be disclosed at this time, we are pleased with the settlement,” wrote LAN officials in a statement on its water litigation website.
“This allows us to put this matter behind us and focus on the future. We believe this will finally bring closure for the state, plaintiffs, and LAN,” the statement reads. “LAN maintains it was never responsible for any of the issues related to the Flint matter, and further litigation would not be productive for any party.”
The settlement – which “splits the $8 million evenly between individual and class plaintiffs,” according to the court’s order – doesn’t end the litigation, which continues against Veolia North America (VNA). A trial is set for February.
The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when a state-appointed emergency manager approved switching the city’s drinking water from Lake Huron to the Flint River in order to save money. The Flint River went untreated, allowing lead to leach.
The crisis was also blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that killed at least 12 people.
VNA and LAN were consultants to the city during the crisis, and attorneys representing the plaintiffs allege both companies were professionally negligent in advising the city about its water system and therefore, partially responsible for residents’ injuries, including brain damage.
LAN said it was retained to provide “a broad scope of services” as part of the Flint water treatment facility’s needed upgrades to accept Flint River water. However, LAN said, the city narrowed LAN’s work to specific tasks regarding the repair and upgrade of specific components of the plant – a change to the original agreement that was “an effort to minimize costs” for the city.
LAN said it made several recommendations to the city about corrosion control, including treating the Flint River for “a minimum of 2-3 months” before using the Flint River as a water source. However, those recommendations “were not undertaken by the city and not required by” the then-Michigan Department of Environmental Control, LAN claims.
The first bellwether trial against both LAN and VNA had the companies’ attorneys questioning the extent of the injuries suffered by the four children named as plaintiffs. The trial ended with a mistrial after the jury said it could not continue deliberating due to the “physical and emotional health of jurors.”
In 2021, U.S. District Judge Judith E. Levy approved the $626.5 settlement and in March, Genesee County Circuit Judge David J. Newblatt approved the settlement – the final procedural step.
LAN is a Leo A. Daly (LAD) Company and the settlement includes LAD and Lockwood and Newnam PC.