A judge says former Gov. Rick Snyder can be sued by residents in the Flint water scandal, reversing a decision from last summer.
Residents claim Snyder violated their right to bodily integrity by repeatedly doing nothing as Flint used corrosive water that released lead from old pipes. Judge Judith Levy says a right to bodily integrity is a "fundamental interest" protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Levy says members of Snyder's administration had warned that switching Flint to the Flint River "could lead to a potential disaster." The city was under state management in 2014 and 2015. Snyder's Department of Environmental Quality failed to require corrosion control.
Levy, a federal judge in Ann Arbor, is overseeing lawsuits related to the water crisis. She released a 128-page opinion Monday.
Snyder left office in January. He has apologized for failures that created and prolonged the crisis.
In her ruling, Judge Levy noted that:
“[P]laintiffs plausibly state that the Governor acted indifferently to the risk of harm they faced, demonstrating a callous disregard for their right to bodily integrity. This indifference manifested itself in two ways. Initially, the Governor was indifferent because instead of mitigating the risk of harm caused by the contaminated water, he covered it up. In private, he worried about the need to return Flint to DWSD water and the political implications of the crisis. But in public, he denied all knowledge, despite being aware of the developing crisis.
As a result, plaintiffs were lured into a false sense of security. They could have taken protective measures, if only they had known what the Governor knew. Instead, the Governor misled them into assuming that nothing was wrong. Governor Snyder’s administration even encouraged them to continue to drink and bathe in the water.”
Dan Olsen, a spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office, issued the following statement: "We are reviewing the 128-page opinion, and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on it until our review is complete."