Supreme Court clears way for lawsuit in Flint Water Crisis

Residents of Flint, Mich., can move forward with a lawsuit against multiple defendants, including Michigan's former governor over the contamination of its water supply

(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court has allowed residents of Flint, Mich., which has been plagued with a tainted water supply for the past several years can move forward with a lawsuit against state and local governmental officials.

According to NPR, the officials in both Flint and the state of Michigan have long argued that they should be immune from litigation in the crisis. Lower courts, however, disagreed and the case moved on to the high court. On Tuesday, justices refused to take up a pair of cases linked to the lead-tainted water that had come through the city’s water infrastructure from the Flint River, exposing as many as 12,000 children to lead and even killing a dozen people as a result of Legionnaires’ disease.

READ MORE: Judge allows Flint residents to sue federal government for water crisis

With the Supreme Court turning down the cases, it meant that a class-action suit by tens of thousands of Flint-area residents could continue.

“It’s time for the people of Flint to start feeling like they are going to get their day in court,” attorney Michael Pitt, who is co-lead counsel on the class-action suit, told “This just moves the entire process closer to that day.”

But Pitt doesn’t expect a trial to begin until 2021.

An earlier suit filed in 2016, was turned away by the Supreme Court, NPR reports. In it, then-Gov. Rick Snyder was accused of being indifferent to the risk residents faced by contamination in the water supply. He was said to have been concerned and worried that the city may need to return to getting their water from Detroit, about an hour south. But he publicly denied knowing about an impending crisis.

READ MORE: Flint water crisis prompts Michigan to enact toughest lead rules in U.S.

In April 2019, a U.S. district judge found that Snyder was, in fact, indifferent because he could have analyzed the risk from the possible contamination instead of covering it up, thus placing him back as a defendant in the civil suit.

Eventually, the city switched to using water from Lake Huron, around 70 miles away and it did meet federal safety standards. But that was in 2016, too late to prevent the damage.