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New lawsuit alleges racketeering created Flint's water crisis

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Another day, another class-action lawsuit is filed seeking damages in the Flint water crisis.

But this one is a little different from the rest. 

The lawsuit accuses state and local officials of racketeering.

The class action lawsuit alleges Gov. Rick Snyder, three of Flint’s former emergency managers, state officials, former Flint city leaders, and others decided to eliminate the city’s budget deficit, and avoid bankruptcy, by charging high rates for Flint’s drinking water.

Attorney Chet Kern says government officials misrepresented the quality of Flint’s drinking water in order to keep their “scheme” working.

“Nobody intentionally wanted the people of Flint poisoned,” Kern says. “All of this came out of a scheme to balance the budget of the city of Flint.”

The governor’s office declined to comment on the suit.

Dozens of other suits have been filed seeking damages for Flint residents exposed to the city’s lead-tainted tap water.

The legal team involved in the latest suit has been involved in similar litigation in the past. 

Marc Bern with the legal firm of Bern Ripka. He represented Ground Zero rescue and recovery workers after the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, who later developed cancer and other ailments.

“You know what, that pales today with respect to what is happening here in Flint,” says Bern. 

Bern’s firm helped get the 9/11 workers more than $700 million dollars in settlements. The legal fees amounted to a 25% cut, after expenses. 

Bern says their cut of any settlement or judgment in the new Flint water crisis lawsuit will be determined by the courts.

While the attorneys say they hope the legal process in the Flint suit moves quickly, they concede it may take years to resolve. 

Lorraine Haynes is among the 400 plaintiffs in the suit. 

“What’s going to happen down the road, I don’t know. I want to know,” Haynes told reporters. “I need answers and I don’t know where to begin.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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