Lawyers spar over objections to Flint water settlement

Jul 13, 2021
Originally published on July 14, 2021 6:16 am

On Monday, a federal judge held the first of three days of hearings into objections to a $641 million settlement of Flint water crisis civil lawsuits.

More than 50,000 people have registered for a piece of the settlement of claims against the state of Michigan, the city of Flint, McLaren Flint Hospital and Rowe Engineering.

During Monday’s hearing, attorneys sparred over bone scan testing to gauge lead exposure. The testing has become controversial over concerns about access to testing and the test’s safety.

Attorney Corey Stern has acted as a liaison between lawyers in the settlement. During the hearing, he dismissed some of the criticisms.    

“(Lawyers) who say the bone scans are not safe actually sent their clients to get tested,” Stern told the federal judge. “(Lawyers)...saying the bone scans are not accessible had open time slots that clients didn’t use.”

Stern’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from attorney Mark Cukor. Cukor represents a dozen plaintiffs with objections to the settlement.

Cukor says the device used to scan thousands of plaintiffs for lead exposure is not certified for use on people.   

“Your Honor should think long and hard before you put the court’s seal of approval on this practice,” Cukor told the court.

Dr. Lawrence Reynolds is a Flint physician and critic of the settlement’s use of bone scans and blood lead testing to determine the size of monetary awards.

During Monday’s hearing, Reynolds talked about the bone scan’s limits.    

“It does not tell me when lead was ingested. It doesn’t tell me how lead was ingested. It doesn’t tell me where lead was ingested,” Reynolds said. “It really doesn’t add any definitive information.” 

On Tuesday, it will be Flint residents' turn to raise their own objections to the settlement.

One major objection expected to come up will be about the compensation the lawyers will receive. Back in March, attorneys filed a motion requesting 32% of the settlement to cover their fees.

There will be a third hearing on Thursday.

It will be up to U.S. District Judge Judith Levy to decide whether to give the settlement final approval.   

If it’s approved, the settlement will not end all civil lawsuits tied to the Flint water crisis. Lawsuits have been filed against private companies that consulted on the decision to switch the city’s drinking water source that created the lead tainted drinking water crisis. The U.S. EPA is also being sued. 

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