Filed Date: Nov. 13, 2015
Closed Date: 2018
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On November 13, 2015, ten residents of Flint, Michigan filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The plaintiffs sued Governor Rick Snyder, the State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), several MDEQ officials, the Emergency Managers of Flint, the Mayor of Flint, the Director of Public Works for Flint, the Utilities Administrators of Flint, and the City of Flint under U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged that their Due Process rights were violated when the defendants took safe drinking water from Flint and replaced it with water known to contain high levels of lead and other corrosive contaminants. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that by replacing the safe water with corrosive water the defendants harmed their property, caused physical and emotional injury, and violated their right to bodily integrity. The plaintiffs sought an order certifying the class as all “individuals who from April 25, 2014 to present were exposed to toxic Flint water and experience an injury to their person or property or who in the future will be so injured.” Furthermore, the plaintiffs sought declaratory judgment, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and cost, and injunctive relief to remedy harm to property, establish a medical monitoring fund, and appoint a monitor to oversee Flint’s water operation. Additionally, the plaintiffs demanded a jury trial.
From 1964 until 2014, the City of Flint provided safe, clean water to residents via the Detroit water system. According to the complaint, although Flint and MDEQ officials were aware that the water of the Flint River was highly corrosive and dangerous, in April 2014, the Emergency Manager ordered the city to switch its water source to the Flint River. Despite continued protests from Flint residents, defendants insisted the water was safe and declined to switch back to the Detroit water system. It was not until October 8, 2015 that Governor Snyder ordered Flint to switch back to the Detroit water system. However, the plaintiffs alleged that due to the prolonged exposure to contaminated water they suffer from property damage and serious physical and emotional injuries, such as high levels of lead and copper in their bloodstreams, skin lesions, hair loss, and neurological and psychological disorders.
On April 1, 2016, the plaintiffs filed a motion to consolidate six class action cases pending before the Court and designate a process for selecting interim lead counsel. The six class actions were all brought on behalf of Flint residents, consumers or businesses and based on the City of Flint switching its water source to the highly corrosive and dangerous water of the Flint River.
Shortly after, on April 4, 2016, Governor Snyder and the State of Michigan filed a motion to dismiss. Additional defendants-the Emergency Managers of Flint, the Director of Public Works, the City of Flint, the Utilities Administrators of Flint, and the Mayor of Flint-filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaint on April 18, 2016. Both the motions argued that the officials were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Safe Drinking Water Act precluded action under § 1983 for alleged deprivations of constitutional rights related to water quality standards, and the complaint fails to state a claim for a violation of substantive due process. Instead, the defendants argued that this claim must be brought under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on May 25, 2016, adding allegations that their Equal Protection rights were violated on the basis of race and wealth when the defendants elected to provide clean water to the remainder of Genesee County but not Flint. In addition, the plaintiffs added claims of conspiracy to violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under U.S.C. § 1985(3), allegations of state law violations, and several defendants, including the Treasurer for the State of Michigan, the Director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHSS), and the Genesee County Drain Commissioner. Finally, the plaintiffs anticipated that additional negligence claims would be added against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on October 25, 2016 or after.
Following the amended complaint, multiple defendants again filed a motion to dismiss. Governor Snyder, the State of Michigan, the Treasurer and the Director of MDHSS filed a motion to dismiss on June 27, 2016 again arguing that the claims were barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity, the Safe Drinking Water Act precluded the plaintiffs § 1983 claims, and the amended complaint fails to state a claim for violation for substantive due process. They additionally argued that the plaintiffs’ other claims fail because there was no showing of discriminatory intent or involvement of a fundamental right. Additional motions to dismiss were filed by the Emergency Managers, City Officials of the City of Flint, the MDEQ officials, and the Genesee County Drain Commissioner on July 29, 2016 and August 1, 2016. Although the groups of defendants filed separately, the motions all argued similar reasons for dismissing the plaintiffs’ lawsuit.
Due to the overwhelming local media coverage and publicity of the Flint water crisis, the MDEQ officials filed a motion for change of venue and requested that the case be transfer to an out-of-state venue or to the Norther Division of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The MDEQ officials simultaneously requested the Court stay all proceedings, such as the motions to dismiss, until the Court decided their motion for change of venue.
On February 2, 2017, Judge John Corbett O’Meara granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss. 2017 WL 445637. Relying on its decision in Boler v. Earley (Case No. 16-10323), Judge O’Meara agreed with the defendants that the Safe Drinking Water Act and its enforcement scheme precluded the plaintiffs from bring suit under § 1983. Judge O’Meara concluded that without viable constitutional claims, the plaintiffs’ conspiracy claims under § 1985(3) also fails. In addition, Judge O’Meara declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ state claims.
Later in February 2017, the plaintiffs appealed the dismissal of their complaint to the Sixth Circuit. The Court of Appeals consolidated the appeal with an appeal to Boler v. Earley (Case No. 16-10323). On July 28, 2017, the Court of Appeals reversed Judge O’Meara’s decision to dismiss the claims because there was no express indication in the Safe Drinking Water Act Congress intended to preempt § 1983 claims, the remedies of the Act were not so comprehensive as to demonstrate congressional intent to preclude claims under § 1983, and the rights and protections of the Act diverge from the constitutional claims so as to prevent an inference of congressional intent. (Circuit Judges R. Guy Cole Jr., Jane Branstetter Stranch, and Bernice B. Donald). 865 F.3d 391. The Court of Appeals dismissed the claims against the State of Michigan because the claims were barred by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. The defendants filed a writ of certiorari, but on March 19, 2018, the Supreme Court denied a writ of certiorari.
Because this case appeared to be a companion case to Waid v. Snyder (Case No. 16-10444), on October 19, 2017, this case was reassigned to District Judge Judith E. Levy and Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub.
On April 6, 2018, this case was consolidated with Waid v. Snyder; for subsequent activity, see that record.
Emily Kempa (6/9/2019)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4292804/parties/mays-v-snyder/
Agarwal, Shilpi (Michigan)
Amodeo, Salvatore A. (Michigan)
Banks, James Gordon (Michigan)
Bade, Peter M. (Michigan)
Barbieri, Charles E. (Michigan)
Levy, Judith Ellen (Michigan)
O'Meara, John Corbett (Michigan)
Stranch, Jane Branstetter (Tennessee)
See docket on RECAP: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4292804/mays-v-snyder/
Last updated Feb. 13, 2024, 3:01 a.m.
State / Territory: Michigan
Filing Date: Nov. 13, 2015
Closing Date: 2018
Case Ongoing: No
Residents of Flint, Michigan who, since April 25, 2014, were and continue to be exposed to contaminated drinking water of the Flint River
Public Interest Lawyer: No
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Unknown
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: None Yet / None
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief: