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Flint water settlement deal may be fraying as lawyer claims his clients are being 'coerced'

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Part of the $641 million Flint water crisis settlement might be in jeopardy.

McLaren Flint Hospital agreed to contribute $20 million to the settlement. The rest of the money is coming from the state of Michigan, the city of Flint and Rowe Professional Services.

The hospital faces lawsuits tied to deadly Legionnaires' Diseasecases after the city of Flint’s drinking water was switched.  At least a dozen people died and scores more fell ill with the pneumonia-like illness. Roughly half the cases had links to the McLaren hospital.

Under the master settlement, payouts in the Legionnaires' claims could range from between $300,000 to $1.5 million.

But many people suing the hospital decided not to opt-in to the master settlement, leaving open the possibility that McLaren could pull out of the agreement.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger represents more than two dozen claimants who opted out of the master settlement. 

During a status conference Wednesday, Fieger accused U.S. District Judge Judith Levy and Genesee County Circuit Judge Joseph Farrah of trying to “strong-arm” and “coerce” his clients to join the settlement.

Levy says that’s “simply not true.”  

Afterward, Fieger released a statement saying he wants McLaren to add another $400 million to the master settlement. 

A Special Master appointed by the court is reviewing paperwork fromthousands of peoplewho opted into the Flint water settlement before a deadline at the end of March. 

In July, Judge Levy has scheduled a hearing for those who have raised objections to the settlement that attorneys hammered out. Those objections can range from the overall size of the settlement to specific compensation levels and requirements on each of the plaintiff classes within the settlement.   

Judge Levy will also have to determine how much attorneys will receive from the settlement as compensation. In paperwork filed earlier this year, attorneys requested roughly a third of the settlement in compensation. 

This weekend marks the 7th anniversary of the ill-fated switch of Flint's drinking water from Detroit's water system to the Flint River. Before it was switched back 18 months later, improperly treated river water damaged city pipes, releasing lead and other contaminants into Flint's drinking water.

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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