Class-action lawsuits against engineering firms and public officials resulting from the Flint, Mich., water-supply crisis will be heard mostly in federal courts, based on a U.S. Supreme Court action on June 12.
The high court let stand a 2016 lower U.S. appeals court decision that allowed the first of numerous suits against Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN) and Veolia North America—consultants to Flint—to be heard in state courts.
In that ruling, Judge Richard Griffin said the class action meets the “local controversy” exemption of a U.S. law enacted in 2005 to broaden federal court jurisdiction over such suits.
In March, LAN had asked the high court to overturn the appellate ruling, claiming it conflicted with decisions in six other circuits.
However, an April 25 ruling by another judge in the same appellate court said the suits should be in federal court because “it was the alleged conduct of primarily out-of-state defendants that caused plaintiffs’ injuries … and will have long-lasting implications for interstate commerce.” One Florida-based plaintiff’s attorney said the appellate court is allowing remaining class actions to be heard in federal court.
Attorneys earlier this month moved to consolidate all outstanding class actions, says Emmy Levens. A federal court hearing is set for late July.
The two companies have both said they had no responsibility for the decisions that led to the lead problems in the Flint water supply.