Defense attorneys argue class-action lawsuits for water crisis are invalid

(Source: WNEM)

Thousands of Flint residents are part of a class-action lawsuit against the state seeking compensation in the ongoing water crisis.

Government attorneys are trying to pump the brakes on the lawsuit.

In federal court on Wednesday, lawyers for the state and the city of Flint argued to have the lawsuit dismissed citing government immunity.

“Recognition that government officials in the state of Michigan poisoned the children and the people of Flint. They kept it secret and then they got caught and lied about it,” said Michael Pitt, lead attorney in the class-action lawsuit.

Pitt said he is not surprised the city of Flint and the State of Michigan are trying to get the cases dismissed.

“Today the same government officials want to be exonerated. They do not want to be held accountable,” Pitt said.

Defense attorneys for the city and the state were tight-lipped as they entered the courtroom on Wednesday. During the hearing, they argued the lawsuits are not valid, citing the state could not be held responsible because they were unaware of what was going on.

Melissa Mays, Flint water crisis activist, is a plaintiff in the lawsuits. She said she went to the hearing to hear how the city and state justified their actions, or lack thereof.

“We keep hearing things that we’re not poisoned. People saying it’s not as bad as you think. We had to be here to show that yes it is. We are the ones living through it so we need to be the people that are hurt,” Mays said.

Pitt is hoping the lawsuits move forward and his clients get what they are asking for – acknowledgment and resources.

“We’re looking at options that the people in Flint have to get the state of Michigan to resume the responsibilities to provide people with clean, safe water during the time the pipes are being replaced,” Pitt said.

Residents who are still reeling from the effects of the lead-tainted water say they will continue the fight for justice.

"Them trying to dismiss our case is absurd," said Ariana Hawk, Flint water activist.

Hawk's son was featured on the cover of Time Magazine back in 2016.

"The struggle has been so long. We have been poisoned. Our families are hurt," Hawk said.

She went to federal court on Wednesday to hear arguments by defense attorneys involved in a dozen consolidated class action lawsuits.

Todd Russell Perkins, defense attorney for former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, questions some of the arguments made by the residents of Flint - including those who say the crisis was racially motivated.

"The plaintiffs are saying because the black citizens in Flint were discriminated against, but you have a city that's 60/40 black/white. So there's some inconsistency there. So to say that just black people were discriminated against, some would say that everyone was discriminated against. But I'm not gonna go any further," Perkins said.

The plaintiffs said state and city attorneys are just trying to do whatever they can to pass the buck.

"On the other hand, lawyers have to be lawyers and they're going to make all these silly motions that they make in order to get their clients out from under the trouble that they're in," said Bill Goodman, attorney representing the putative class in Flint.

As for Hawk, she wants someone held accountable.

"At the end of the day, someone needs to be held accountable for what they did to these people," Hawk said.

Copyright 2018 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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