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Bellwether trial set to begin in Flint water crisis lawsuit

The interior of the Flint water plant.
Mandel Ngan
AFP/Getty Images
The interior of the Flint water plant.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in federal court in Ann Arbor in a lawsuit tied to the Flint water crisis.

The case involves legal claims by four children against two engineering companies over their alleged negligence involved in Flint’s lead tainted drinking water.

In 2014, the city of Flint’s drinking water source was switched as part of an effort to save money. But the river water was not properly treated. A lack of chemicals to reduce the water’s corrosiveness damaged pipes, releasing lead and other contaminants into Flint’s drinking water.

By 2015, tests showed elevated levels of lead in the blood of Flint children. Lead may cause long-term negative health effects, especially in young children.

Veolia North America (VNA) and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN) were hired as consultants on Flint’s water system.

Attorneys for VNA and LAN deny their clients were negligent. The lawyers say their clients are not responsible for the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries.

In recent weeks, U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy has issued a series of decisions on motions in the case. She’ll preside over the trial which is expected to take four months.

This is a bellwether case. It’s called that because it could predict how other plaintiffs may fare if they decide to proceed to trial against these defendants.

The VNA and LAN are not part of the $626 million settlement of other Flint water claims. More than 50,000 people agreed to drop claims against the state of Michigan, the city of Flint and two other businesses in exchange for a share of that settlement.

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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