Flint Water Contamination Case Ends in Mistrial

U.S. District Court magistrate judge David Grand declared a mistrial on Thursday in a case against two engineering companies for their alleged contributions to the Flint contaminated water crisis.

The announcement was made after receipt of a note from the jury stating, “For the physical and emotional health of the jurors, we don’t believe we can continue with further deliberations… 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.”

The jury had been deliberating for two weeks following a five-month trial. The lawsuit, brought by four children who lived in Flint during the lead-contaminated water crisis, accused engineering companies Veolia North America and Lockwood Andrews & Newman (LAM) of negligence. In opening statements in February, attorneys for the plaintiffs accused LAM of failing to complete testing contracted by the city of Flint and Veolia of ignoring lower-level workers’ concerns and putting profits ahead of advising the city on all options.

Veolia’s defense asserted that the crisis was due to a “massive government failure” and insisted that city officials ignored Veolia’s recommendations and stymied its ability to evaluate the problem. The defense also pointed to former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for failing to order a return to the Detroit water line sooner. LAN’s defense reiterated that it was a government failure, not LAN’s, and noted that LAN’s Chief Technical Officer was also ignored by city leaders.

Veolia and LAN are not part of the $626.5 million settlement reached in 2021 that includes Flint, former Governor Snyder, the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, McLaren Regional Medical Center, and city contractor Rowe Professional Services Co.

This case was the first case concerning the Flint water contamination crisis to make it to trial and was expected to be a bellwether for other lawsuits against the defendants.

Additional Reading

Federal judge declares mistrial in Flint water crisis bellwether trial, The Detroit News (August 11, 2022)

Jury hung in Flint water crisis civil trial, mistrial declared, Detroit Free Press (August 11, 2022)

Engineering firms on trial over Flint water contamination, Courthouse News Service (February 28, 2022)

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