“Flint’s best chance for a lawsuit”: My op-ed for the Washington Post


In recent weeks, I’ve turned some of my attention north toward the deplorable situation in Flint, Michigan, where government bungling — or worse — caused citizens, including children, to be poisoned by lead-contaminated water. It’s clear that residents there will need to fight back by any means necessary. This weekend, I was delighted that the Washington Post’s new PostEverything website published my op-ed, “Here’s Flint’s best chance for a lawsuit.”

Here’s an excerpt:

If my experience is a guide, the state will hire the best lawyers and experts money can buy to argue that Flint residents experienced insufficient exposure to lead and that their maladies come from another source or preexisting condition. Unfortunately, it is especially difficult to prove that a brain injury has caused cognitive dysfunction when no prior brain measurements exist. Almost certainly, everyone exposed to Flint’s poisoned water will need a lifetime of medical monitoring to watch for latent diseases that can take years to manifest. If and when that happens, another lawsuit might be in order. That is why potential plaintiffs should be cautious about any hastily offered settlement, which may require a waiver of future claims.

I hope that everyone in Flint has saved their water bills and other receipts as evidence of both the span of time during which they were consuming and paying for city water, and to demonstrate that the water crisis imposed a financial burden — including medical and pharmaceutical costs as well as the expense of buying large quantities of bottled water. This could become important later in establishing the length of exposure and damages to the person and the pocketbook.

Flint’s tap water may be orange and murky, but the way forward is clear: Government, like big business, works for the people only when the cost of doing wrong is shown to be greater than the cost of doing right. And for the people of Flint, the place to teach that lesson is in court.

I hope you’ll read the entire piece. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen presidential candidates — well, Democratic presidential candidates anyway — reach out to citizens in Flint, and wealthy locals and celebrities donating thousands of cases of bottled water. These are important first steps, but they are not the ultimate solution. That is much more likely to come before a jury of their peers.

Read my new op-ed in the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/02/11/how-can-flint-hold-government-accountable-sue/

Learn more about my fights against polluters in low-income neighborhoods in Mississippi and Louisiana in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on Americahttp://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice

© Stuart H. Smith, LLC 2015 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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