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Judge dismisses defamation lawsuit involving Flint water crisis figures

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A judge has dismissed a lawsuitbrought by a researcher who exposed Flint’s lead tainted tap water against activists who criticized him.

In 2015, local activists worked with Virginia Tech’s Marc Edwards to reveal Flint’s drinking water exceeded the federal action level for lead.  But by 2018, Edwards’ relationship with some of those activists had soured. 

Last year, Edwards filed a defamation suit against Flint activist Melissa Mays and two others after they allegedly tried to damage his professional reputation.   

The suit filed in Virginia claimed defendants Melissa Mays, Yanna Lambrinidou and Paul Schwartz entered into an ongoing civil conspiracy to attack and damage Edwards' professional reputation. The suit claimed Edwards had been subjected to numerous negative written and verbal false statements. Specifically, the activists asked a variety of academic and professional groups to conduct an investigation of Edwards’ work in Flint.

Edwards was asking for $3 million in damages.

But this week, a judge in Virginia tossed the suit.

Attorney William Moran represented Mays in the suit. He says the judge’s 115-page opinion found Edwards’ suit was “vague and ambiguous.” Moran says the ruling shows Edwards was trying to challenge “constitutionally protected opinion.”

Edwards says appealing is an option, but he also indicated that this may be the end.

“Maybe it is my fate, to be the last person, to adapt to a post-truth world,” says Edwards. “Maybe I should just embrace that and go on.” 

Edwards recentlypublished a study in a scholarly journal which criticized the work of some "citizen scientists" in the Flint water crisis.

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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