Lawsuit Filed Against Flint Government for Gross Negligence

Seven families in Flint, Michigan, have filed a class-action lawsuit citing gross negligence at the hands of Gov. Rick Snyder in response to the effects of the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis.


In April of 2014, Flint switched its water source from Detroit Water and Sewage Department to the Flint River. Due to high concentrations of chloride in the river, the main iron water pipes suffered excessive corrosion, causing extremely elevated levels of lead in the water. To add insult to injury, a report found that residents of Flint paid more for their water than anyone else in the country while the water was contaminated.

The city of Flint wasn’t always so broken down. Flint was the beacon of the auto industry from the early 1900’s to the mid 1980’s. This was in large part due to the presence of industry titan General Motors (one of DiversityInc’s 2015 Top 25 Noteworthy Companies), which was formed in 1908. That year, Flint’s population was 38,000, and as the automobile industry grew, Flint thrived and by 1960, the city had a population of 196,000.

At one point GM employed more than 75,000 workers in the city, but from 1986 to 1992, more than 19,000 employees were let go, and the city entered a 30-year downward spiral. In 2014, U.S. Census reported a population of 99,000 a 50 percent decrease within the past 50 years. And following the switch to the Flint River for water, conditions only deteriorated further.

Related Story: Flint Water Crisis: Gov. Snyder Ducks Testifying to Congress

Today, parents are seeing the effects of lead poisoning on their children including Melissa Lightfoot, whose three children were all found to have high lead levels in their blood. Within the past year all three have been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, a common side effect of lead poisoning for children.

Related Story: Mich. Gov. Ignores Safety, Poisons Poor Black Residents to Save a Buck

The Lightfoots, joined by six other effected families, filed the lawsuit on Monday, March 7th. Their goal is to force local and state officials to take responsibility for the water crisis and have them provide coverage for any child poisoned.

Melissa Lightfoot got her children tested for lead prior to the city’s change in water source, and at that time none of them showed abnormal levels. The reference level for abnormality in blood lead levels is five micrograms per deciliter; however, a few months after the water became contaminated, the Lightfoot kids’ levels rose above reference level, showing a dangerous amount of exposure had occurred.

“I was scared,” Lightfoot said. “My kids are getting poisoned from something that’s a necessity and as a parent there’s nothing I can do to help them. It’s already in them, I can’t take it out, and there’s no medicine for it.”

The family has been using bottled water for all of their day-to-day functions, even for bathing. Lightfoot claims she has seen a deteriorating difference in her children’s behavior, specifically a lack of focus and anger outbursts. Her daughters even suffered minor hair loss, while her son developed rashes.

“I’m constantly at a doctor’s office,” she said. “If it’s not a doctor’s office, it’s an appointment for therapy, because of this lead being in my kids.”

Compared to her older siblings, Lightfoot’s youngest daughter, a 5-year-old “diva of the family” kindergartener, has the most alarming blood lead level of 8 micrograms per deciliter (g per dl), although one of the other victims in the class-action suit tested for nearly 30 g per dl.

The crisis has garnered nationwide attention, including from Democratic presidential hopefuls former Secretary of State and Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates have called on Gov. Snyder to resign, which he said he has no intention of doing.

One of the attorneys involved in the case, Hunter Shkolnik, said, “Lead poisoning is an insidious disease, we know the brain is permanently and irreversibly damaged but it doesn’t manifest itself immediately. These children have been pushed so far down now they cannot ever achieve what was expected of them.” An estimated 6,000 to 12,000 children have been affected by Flint’s water pollution.

The lawsuit focuses on holding any officials responsible for changing the water supply, ignoring the metallic pipe corrosion, falsely claiming the water was safe to drink and neglecting reported early signs of contamination. City and state officials have yet to comment on the pending legal action at hand.

Engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews, and Newman is deemed partly responsible, as they were hired by Flint before the water source switch in 2014. In a previous lawsuit, the firm claimed it had a “limited scope” on the work done and that it was the government’s decision to not implement corrosion control maintenance.

In March 2015, the city council of Flint voted to do all things necessary to correct the disaster 11 months after the initial switch that caused irreversible damage. Regardless of steps taken, Lightfoot’s trust in the city and peace of mind are permanently broken.

“I don’t know how the rest of my kids’ lives are going to play out because of how high their lead levels are,” she said. “Now I just want to get my kids out of Flint.”

Latest News

Hilton #3 on Best Places to Work List

Originally posted on Hilton  LinkedIn and Laura Fuentes (EVP & CHRO at Hilton) Today we are honored to be named #3 on the list of #WorldsBestWorkplaces by Fortune and Great Place to Work US. This recognition is an important reminder of the incredible power of our Hilton community, especially in these uniquely challenging times. As I step into…

Students Again Rank Abbott’s College Internship Program No. 1 in Healthcare Industry

Originally published on Abbott.com This summer, we were challenged to deliver a virtual summer internship program for our U.S. college interns that would enrich their professional experience while keeping them and our employees safe. Technology became the primary solution to our training, career development, and leadership interactions. Going beyond conference…

Cox Business and Henderson, Nevada Launch Energy Efficient Smart Lighting Project

Originally published on Cox.com Cox2M IoT Business Line of Cox Communications will Pilot New Lighting Controls The City of Henderson and Cox Communications have successfully deployed the first stage of their smart community collaboration, starting with energy efficient lighting management and controls. Cox2M, the IoT business line of Cox Communications, and the…

Diverse hads unite

More Work Needed For Corporate Diversity Programs; Fourteen Disability Groups Unite to Promote Voting; and More

Corporate diversity efforts still have a long way to go, new report finds. In a report conducted by the research firm Clutch, nearly half of employees surveyed said their company isn’t committed to creating a more diverse workplace and hasn’t successfully improved diversity within the last year. Researchers with Clutch…

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Declares War on Racism; People 55 and Older Face Historic Levels of Unemployment; and More.

San Francisco begins a citywide war on racism and discrimination. Known as the birthplace of the “Summer of Love” and the counterculture movement of the 1960s, San Francisco has long stood as a bastion of individuality and inclusion. And now the city is continuing that fight with the launch of…

portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s mention of Abraham Lincoln’s name during the third presidential debate on Thursday, Oct. 22, was one of the most memorable exchanges in the final presidential debate of 2020. It also caused Lincoln to become a trending topic over much of social media in the hours…