The Settlement: What They’re Saying
“This will go down in history as one of the greatest steals from innocent, helpless people by the very lawyers who came here to help us.”
On January 21, 2021, Judge Judith E. Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, approved a $626.25 million settlement against the state of Michigan, the City of Flint, McLaren Hospitals, and Rowe Professional Services Co [source].
The fees which will be paid to the trial lawyers out of the settlement may be up to $200 million, almost a third of the total sum of the settlement [source].
VNA rejected the option to be part of such a settlement and is arguing in court that it did not cause nor prolong the Flint Water Crisis, but instead gave good advice to the officials who had the power to end the crisis. These officials, who settled their case, ignored VNA’s recommendation and lied to VNA’s engineers as they lied to the people of Flint.
Here are some comments from Flint residents as well as some observers on the Flint settlement.
Lawyers file fee request in Flint Water Crisis settlement, critics call it "immoral"
“It might be normal, but it’s not ethical,” says Bishop Bernadel Jefferson. “It’s immoral!”
Jefferson, a vocal critic of the water crisis settlement, is balking at the request by lawyers to take up to 32% of the money, amounting to approximately $207 million leaving an estimated $434 million for the plaintiffs.
“You were fighting for the children? Well, what were your fighting for?!?” asks Jefferson. “Because if you take 200-million of the top, what does that leave them?”
“Flint families took 100% of the harm,” says state Rep. Cynthia Neeley. “Flint families should not have a third of the settlement taken from them.”
Lawyers may get close to $180 million in Flint water crisis settlement
“I really wish they would negotiate a settlement that’s in the best interest of their clients, just as in the best interest of them getting attorney fees”.
Mays said his lawyer “dropped me like a hot potato” when Mays objected to the settlement.
Flint water crisis legal settlement totals $600M, creates victim compensation fund
Flint resident Nayyirah Shariff, director of the grassroots group Flint Rising, called the settlement “disappointing,” and “not at all satisfactory.”
“I have seizures now, and because I’m an adult, I wouldn’t probably get even $6,000,” Shariff said. “Who knows what my long-term health issues are going to be?”
Flint resident Nakiya Wakes said “it just seems like we should have gotten more,” and “I still want to see everyone held accountable,“
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said “the demand for justice will not be satisfied until every person who had a hand in poisoning my city be held legally accountable, regardless of political position or power”
Critics say they are "gravely concerned" about proposed Flint water crisis settlement
“We believe the proposed settlement as currently allocated is just as disrespectful as the injury caused by the water crisis tragedy itself,” says Pastor John McClain.
Attorneys submit proposed fees and get criticized in massive $641 million Flint water settlement
Michigan Lawsuit Abuse is a group that formed in the 1990s and takes stands on high profile cases including Flint saying, “The settlement to bring #JusticeforFint is ‘disrespectful’ because out-of-state plaintiff lawyers are raking in millions of dollars on the backs of the people of Flint. Flint needs justice, not a payday for lawyers!”
Melissa Mays said “Do I think some of the attorneys have earned this?”. “Yes, absolutely. And I know they have spent this. But others especially the ones who have jumped in or do this for celebrity or whatever that aren’t helping us and are causing more problems than helping, no they shouldn’t get this.”
Flint residents ask judge to reject $641-million water crisis settlement
“This is not justice for Flint …,” said former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, one of the objectors. “We will not settle for the crumbs that have been put before us.”
“It’s time for Flint to receive a settlement that is commensurate … to the violent crime that was done here and the damage that was done to us and the lives lost — (people who are now) unable to speak for themselves,” Weaver said.
“It’s time for Flint to heal and it’s time for us to be made whole.”
Resident Diane Fletcher said “The citizens of the city of Flint, Michigan, are legally being robbed … ‚” “This will go down in history as one of the greatest steals from innocent, helpless people by the very lawyers who came here to help us.”
“They took the money for themselves and left the people of the city in the same situation they were in when they came,” she said.
Critics urge rejection of $641M Flint deal in contaminated water case
“The lawyers are making out like fat rats,” Audrey Young-Muhammed complained to the judge.
But the Rev. Freelon Threlkeld, addressing the judge, described the settlement as “some crumbs.”
“You may not rescind this settlement, but at the end of the day, you and all the other lawyers are going to pay for what you’ve done to the have-nots,” the Baptist minister said.
How much should lawyers make in the Flint water crisis settlement?
Frank Bednarz, an attorney with the Center for Class Action Fairness at the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, argued that attorney fees in cases with a pot of over $500 million typically average closer to 17 percent, in recognition of the “economy of scale” in such cases.
“The attorneys should get paid,” he told Levy Thursday. “They provided a benefit. But class members should not overpay” for their lawyers’ work.
State Rep. John Cherry, D-Flint, called the proposed fees “wildly inappropriate,“ in an interview with Bridge.
Resident Claire McClinton said in remarks to Levy this week, “might be legal, but it’s sure not right.”
Federal judge gives final approval to $626.25M settlement in Flint water crisis
Former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver drew unfavorable comparisons between the Flint settlement, to be shared among about 50,000 residents who are predominantly people of color, and other recent settlements impacting mostly white communities. She pointed to: MSU’s $500 million settlement with 332 women sexually abused by former sports doctor Larry Nassar; Penn State’s $109 million settlement with about 40 men molested by former football coach Jerry Sandusky, and USC’s $852 million settlement with about 710 women abused by a former campus gynecologist.
“I am here to tell you today that this is not justice for Flint,” Weaver, who was mayor from 2015 to 2019, said at the July fairness hearing. “We will not settle for the crumbs that have been set before us.”
Judge gives final approval to $600M-plus Flint water settlement
At least one resident and a pastor were angered by the judge’s approval. Arthur Woodson, a longtime Flint activist, heavily criticized the settlement and said the judge and attorneys and others “are not looking out for the residents.”
“Gretchen Whitmer, Mayor Neeley, the lawyers, all of them need to go to hell,” Woodson said. “The lawyers were just looking out for themselves.”
“What settlement have you ever seen where you don’t know how much you’re going to get and then if you find out …you can’t opt out?” Woodson said. “They know we’re a poor community, and we don’t have pro bono lawyers that will come in and help us out.”
Pastor Kevin Thompson, the leader of St. Mark Baptist Church of Flint said “I think it’s too small of an amount of cash and I think they should hold those in the government responsible”
“I think they should come up with a better amount. It’s a class-action suit. So once people get the money, there won’t be any money. The lawyers take 33 and a third of the money. And there’s nothing left.”
‘Band-Aid on bullet wound’: Flint water settlement leaves some residents angry
“It’s a Band-Aid on a bullet wound once again for our city that is still coping with the residual effects of the water crisis,” LuLu Brezzell told local news website MLive.
Former Flint mayor Karen Weaver called the settlement a “a slap in the face” to many residents still suffering from the water crisis.
“This was not justice for the people of the city of Flint,” Weaver told ABC 12, a local news affiliate.
Claire McClinton, an activist and Flint resident, was also opposed to the settlement, saying that residents were “lowballed”.
“The pain and suffering – the physical, emotional and financial suffering – this settlement just does not meet the mark. Period”, McClinton said to MLive.
Flint city councilman Eric Mays said the payment parameters, including a $1,000 settlement cap for adults, would limit the compensation amount for many eligible recipients and said the average person who had signed up “don’t know what to expect”.
Flint’s Water Settlement Is a Kick in the Face
“Now we have the attorneys arguing over whether they’re going to get $1 million apiece or $2 million apiece,” said Gina Luster, cofounder of Flint Rising, a community organizing coalition. “How much am I going to get? What did my daughter and I qualify for?”
“If your kid walks away with $2,000, you’re lucky,” Luster said. “I’ll be lucky if I walk away with $500.”
“I really want to drive home: Flint is not fixed.”
“As far as justice, where’s the justice?” she asked. “This lawsuit was a gift and a curse. It was a gift because we proved that you can do it. We proved that you can sue the government and win, but no one’s gone to jail. No one really paid the price for what they’ve done to us.”
“I always tell people, you have to come here and see it to actually feel what we’re saying,” Luster said. “It’s not normal.… And there’s nothing we can do about it. And then this lawsuit is such a kick in the face.”