What Legal Claims Are Possible After The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis?

Charlotte Personal Injury Attorney Matthew R. Arnold of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What can you sue for in a personal injury case?”


At this point chances are you’ve heard of the ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan regarding the tainted water. If not, a quick bit of background is that the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, declared a state of emergency early last month after it was confirmed that tainted water from the Flint River was causing lead to leech from the pipes into the city’s water supply.


Pipe runoff Charlotte Injury Lawyer Mecklenburg Accident AttorneySince the revelation, the city and state officials have been scrambling to deal with the fallout. The National Guard has been handing out bottled water as others try and come up with a solution to the problem. Children, the most vulnerable group to lead poisoning, have been exposed to far higher levels of lead than is safe, leading many to wonder and worry about potential long term health consequences.


The decision to switch the water supply will be investigated over the coming months. The governor has said that a thorough independent review will be commenced and the goal is to understand how and why the decision to switch to the Flint River was made. At the time the city was under the control of an emergency manager appointed by Governor Snyder and the reason given at the time was that the switch would save money.


Now that officials have acknowledged the seriousness of the matter in Flint, some have begun to wonder about what legal options are available to residents. It was recently reported that two new class-action lawsuits related to the water crisis has been filed in court. The lawsuits are seeking damages for both personal injury and physical damages suffered by residents of Flint as a result of the water crisis. One of the lawsuits is also asking that Flint water customers not be required to pay past or future bills for the water given that it is not safe to drink. In the other suit, the plaintiffs are trying to hold the state responsible and claim that the state Department of Health knew or should have known about the lead in the water and sat on this information for months before sharing the details with the public.


Beyond these existing claims, residents could also consider several other approaches for civil lawsuits. One would be that water is viewed as a good and, as a result, a lawsuit over implied warranty of merchantability could be used against the municipalities responsible for the water crisis. The argument is that the water is not fit for its intended purpose and that this amounts to a breach of the implied warranty.


Another option is to file a standard negligence claim against the city and state officials responsible for the decision making process. The claim in this case would be that officials had a duty of reasonable care to provide clean and safe drinking water to residents. The decision to switch the water supply to the Flint River to save money could be viewed as a breach of that duty and, as a result, the city and its officials could be found liable for providing the unsafe water.


The problem with all of these options is a little thing called the doctrine of sovereign immunity. This doctrine means that individuals are barred from suing the government or government officials, even when the government has made a costly mistake like they did in Flint. This doctrine says that the government cannot be sued for mistakes made while discharging a core function unless the government consents to the lawsuit. There are some very narrow exceptions to this immunity, but unless the government consents, experts agree that it will be difficult for many of the legal claims to stick.


If you are injured contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you receive the compensation to which you may be entitled to.  Feel free to contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC in Charlotte, North Carolina for a free consultation. Call toll free at (955) 370-2828 or click here for additional resources.


About the Author

Matt Matthew Arnold is a Managing Member of Arnold & Smith, PLLC, where he focuses on the areas of family law, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution.

Mr. Arnold was raised in Charlotte, where he graduated from Providence Senior High School. He attended Belmont Abbey College, where he graduated cum laude, before attending law school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full academic scholarship.

A board-certified specialist in the practice of Family Law, Mr. Arnold is admitted to practice in all state courts in North Carolina, in the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in the North Carolina Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and in the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

In his free time, Mr. Arnold enjoys golfing and spending time with his wife and three children.








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