Advance Notice: Briefs

Mistrial declared in trial of engineering firms connected to Flint water crisis

By: - August 12, 2022 6:14 am

Residents held a rally drawing attention to the Flint water crisis starting five years ago | Nick Manes

A mistrial was declared Thursday in the federal lawsuit against two companies that consulted with the city of Flint during its water crisis.

The ruling from U.S. Magistrate Judge David Grand came after jurors reported they remained deadlocked after six days of deliberations. In a note to the judge, the jury said that to continue forward would be detrimental to their well-being.

“Further deliberations will only result in stress and anxiety with no unanimous decision without someone having to surrender their honest convictions solely for the purpose of returning a verdict,” read the note.

The lawsuit, which had taken six months to try in court, had been brought by four children whose attorneys claimed that the companies, Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN), were negligent in their advisory work for Flint’s water system and were partially responsible for injuries suffered by their clients, including brain damage.

It was alleged that the companies failed to strongly recommend treating Flint’s water so that it would be less corrosive inside the city’s lead pipes. That followed the 2014 switch to the Flint River as the city’s water source, a decision made by emergency managers appointed by GOP then-Gov. Rick Snyder as a cost-saving move.

Veolia and LAN were also accused of failing to warn residents about potentially elevated lead levels in their water.

The companies disputed those claims, insisting during the trial that they had made sound recommendations to the city, which were then ignored. They also questioned the severity of the children’s injuries.

There were signs last week of a deadlocked jury, with hope that Grand’s stepping in for U.S. District Court Judge Judith E. Levy, who left for medical reasons, might break the stalemate. 

However, that was not the case, leaving the plaintiffs to decide whether to drop the lawsuit or face an entirely new trial.

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.