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Michigan Reaches $600 Million Settlement Over Flint Water Crisis

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  • A $600 million settlement was reached between the lawyers of Flint, Michigan residents and state officials over civil cases pertaining to the Flint water crisis.
  • 80% of this settlement will go to those who were children at the time. Another 18% will go to adults, and the rest will go to property damage, business economic loss, and programmatic relief settlements.
  • It is currently unclear exactly how much money each person will get. Those details are expected to be announced in the near future.
  • Leaders in Michigan believe that this is a start to bringing justice to the residents of Flint, who have been dealing with the water crisis since 2014.

Settlement Reached

A $600 million settlement was reached Thursday between the lawyers of Flint, Michigan residents, the office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and the office of Attorney General Dana Nessel regarding the Flint water crisis. 

According to a summary of the preliminary settlement, roughly 80% of the funds will go to those who were under the age of 18 when the crisis began. This will break down to 64.5% for those who were six and under at first exposure, 10% for those who were between seven and 11, and 5% for those aged between 12 and 17. 

Another 18% will go to adults, and the remaining will go to property damage, business economic loss, and programmatic relief settlements. This settlement is the result of 18 months of negotiations and is meant to resolve all of the civil Flint water cases against the state and its related groups and individuals. The $600 million sum is larger than every lawsuit the state has paid out in the last 10 years combined, per a count from Michigan Live

Details about how many recipients there are and what their exact payouts will be are unclear. There were between 18,000 and 20,000 kids in Flint during the exposure period. The population of the city is roughly 100,000. Those eligible to receive funds include those who lived in a residence or owned a business that received Flint water at the time of the crisis, those who came into contact with Flint water for a certain period of time during the crisis, and those who were exposed to the water and were diagnosed with Legionnaires disease, as certain outbreaks were tied to the city’s water. 

The summary states that the state of Michigan, its agencies, as well as current and former employees will be released from any liability to those who receive payment from this fund with respect to civil claims per this settlement. However, Attorney General Nessel went to Twitter to explain this does not mean battles in this case are over. 

“General Hammoud and Pros. Worthy continue their investigation into criminal actions by state actors and the quest for justice and accountability is not over,” she wrote. 

Background on the Flint Water Crisis

In an effort to save the city money, Flint changed its water source in 2014 from the Detroit-treated Lake Huron water to the Flint River. Once it did so, citizens complained that the water had a poor smell, taste, and color, but city officials told them it was safe. It was later confirmed that officials did not ensure corrosion control treatments were added to the water, leading to contamination. 

In 2015, researchers found that lead was leaching into the water and children had elevated levels of lead in their blood since the water source changed. The percentage of infants and children in the city with above average levels nearly doubled citywide, and even nearly tripled in high risk areas. By the end of 2015, the water source was switched to the Detroit water system.

Still, many in Flint still do not trust the water they receive or the local government that allowed this to happen. While the city has checked pipes and replaced many, Michigan Live says that 2,500 have still not been checked yet. Former Governor Rick Snyder admitted that this was the result of mass government failure and the water crisis is widely considered one of the most devastating cases of environmental injustice. 

Responses from Leaders in Flint

“Flint residents have endured more than most, and to draw out the legal back-and-forth even longer would have achieved nothing but continued hardship. This settlement focuses on the children and the future of Flint,” Nessel wrote in a Thursday morning statement about the settlement. 

“Ultimately, by reaching this agreement, I hope we can begin the process of closing one of the most difficult chapters in our State’s history and writing a new one that starts with a government that works on behalf of all of its people,” she added. 

Governor Whitmer also spoke about the settlement Thursday morning. She said that in addition to this payout, the state will be allocating resources to Flint to provide lead service line replacement, nutrition programs, child health care services, early childhood programs, lead prevention and abatement, school aid and more in the future. 

“What happened in Flint should never have happened and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of many ways we can and will continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families,” Whitmer said. 

Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor and water expert who helped expose the lead contamination spoke to The Detroit News about the settlement. 

“If money is how government expresses sorrow for its crimes — this is a big apology,” he said. 

However, some were slightly more critical about the settlement considering what has happened to the city of Flint. 

“There will never be a number that adequately recognizes the harm done to Flint families,” Rep. Dan Kildee wrote, while still acknowledging his support for the settlement.

See what others are saying: (Michigan Live) (Detroit Free Press) (The Guardian)

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Supreme Court Rejects Third Challenge to Affordable Care Act

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In the 7-2 decision, the justices argued the Republican-led states that brought the challenge forth failed to show how the law caused injury and thus had no legal standing.


SCOTUS Issues Opinion on Individual Mandate

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the third Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act to ever reach the high court.

The issue at hand was the provision of the law, commonly known as Obamacare, that requires people to either purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty: the so-called individual mandate. 

The individual mandate has been one of the most controversial parts of Obamacare and it has already been before SCOTUS, which upheld the provision in 2012 on the grounds that it amounted to a tax and thus fell under Congress’ taxing power.

However, as part of the sweeping 2017 tax bill, the Republican-held Congress set the penalty for not having health care to $0. As a result, a group of Republican-led states headed by Texas sued, arguing that because their GOP colleagues made the mandate zero dollars, it no longer raised revenues and could not be considered a tax, thus making it unconstitutional.

The states also argued that the individual mandate is such a key part of Obamacare that it could not be separated without getting rid of the entire law.

The Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument in a 7-2 decision, with Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissenting.

Majority Opinion Finds No Injury

In the majority decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Republican states had no grounds to sue because they could not show how they were harmed by their own colleagues zeroing out the penalty.

“There is no possible government action that is causally connected to the plaintiffs’ injury — the costs of purchasing health insurance,” he wrote, adding that the states “have not demonstrated that an unenforceable mandate will cause their residents to enroll in valuable benefits programs that they would otherwise forgo.”

Breyer also argued that because of this, the court did not need to decide on the broader issue of whether the 2017 tax bill rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional and if that provision could be separated from the ACA.

The highly anticipated decision will officially keep Obamacare as the law of the land, ensuring that the roughly 20 million people enrolled still have health insurance. While there may be other challenges to the law hard-fought by conservatives, this latest ruling sends a key signal about the limits of the Republican efforts to achieve their agenda through the high court, even with the strong conservative majority.

While the court has now struck down challenges to Obamacare three times, Thursday’s decision marked the largest margin of victory of all three challenges to the ACA.

For now, the ACA appears to be fairly insulated from legal challenges, though it will still likely face more. In a tweet following the SCOTUS decision, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) vowed to keep fighting Obamacare, adding that the individual mandate “was unconstitutional when it was enacted and it is still unconstitutional.”

See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press

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Utah Student With Down Syndrome Left Out of Cheer Squad’s Yearbook Photo

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The move marks the second time in three years that Morgyn Arnold has been left out of the school’s yearbook. Two years ago, it failed to include her in the class list.


Two Photos Take, One Without Morgyn Arnold

A Utah school has apologized after a student with Down syndrome at Shoreline Junior High was excluded from her cheerleading squad’s yearbook photo.

The squad took two official team portraits this year. The first included 14-year-old Morgyn Arnold, who had been working as the team manager but attended practices and cheered alongside her other teammates at every home game. The second imsgr did not include her and ended up being the photo the school used across social media and in its yearbook.

Arnold was heartbroken by the decision and her family believed it was made because of her disability.

In social media posts about the move, Arnold’s sister, Jordyn Poll, noted that Arnold “spent hours learning dances, showing up to games, and cheering on her school and friends but was left out.”

“I hope that no one ever has to experience the heartbreak that comes when the person they love comes home from school devastated and shows them that they’re not in the picture with their team,” she continued.

According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Poll also said this marked the second time in three years that her sister has been left out of the yearbook. Two years ago, the school failed to include her in the class list.

School Apologizes After Backlash

After Poll’s public call out picked up attention, the school said it was “deeply saddened by the mistake.”

Apologies have been made to the family, and we sincerely apologize to all others impacted by this error,” it added. “We are continuing to look at what has occurred, and to improve our practice.”

The district issued a similar statement, claiming it was looking into why this occurred to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 

But Poll said this isn’t the same response her family received when they initially contacted school administrators. Instead, Poll told the Tribune that an employee at the school “blatantly said they didn’t know what we were expecting of them and there was nothing they could do.”

The school has since contacted them again “to make the situation right.”

Meanwhile, Poll stressed that her sister’s teammates had nothing to do with the decision, defending the girls as amazing friends who have done everything to make Arnold feel included.

In fact, they too were disappointed to see that she was not featured in the image or even named as a member of the team in the yearbook.

Arnold’s family decided to speak up about the issue so that this school and others can improve the ways they interact with and include students with disabilities. Different forms of exclusion happen at schools across the country, and this story has prompted other parents of kids with disabilities to share similar experiences.

A staff attorney at the Disability Law Center of Utah told the Tribune that it receives about 4,000 complaints each year. Some complaints stemmed from students with disabilities being separated into other classrooms without their peers. Others include name-calling or not allowing students on a team or in a club.

Thankfully, Arnold has not let this situation bring her down. According to her family, she has already forgiven everyone involved and plans to continue cheering alongside her friends.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Salt Lake Tribune) (NBC News)

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Ex-Shake Shack Manager Sues NYPD Over False Milkshake Poisoning Allegations

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The former manager is accusing the police department and its unions of false arrest and defamation relating to the viral incident last summer.


Former Shack Shack Employee Sues One Year Later

The former manager of a New York City Shake Shack restaurant who was falsely accused of poisoning several law enforcement officers’ milkshakes last summer is now suing the city’s police department, its unions, and individual officers.

On June 15, 2020,  three officers monitoring the anti-racism protests in Lower Manhattan entered a Shake Shack location for milkshakes, which they later claimed had been poisoned, likely by bleach.

By the end of the night, investigators determined that no one had tampered with the drinks, and the New York Police Department declared there was “no criminality.” Police later said the officers were possibly sickened by a cleaning solution that had not been properly cleaned out of the machines, though Shake Shack claimed it did not find leaks of any foreign substances.

Before that lack of criminality was determined and while the inquiry was ongoing, the police unions and their leaders accused the Shake Shack workers of launching a targeted attack in a series of tweets, which were then shared and discussed widely on social media by prominent conservatives.

The resulting outcome was widespread condemnation and deleting of tweets. Now, almost exactly a year later, the former manager of that Shake Shack, Marcus Gilliam, has accused the parties involved of false arrest and defamation.

According to his lawsuit, the three officers — who are referred to as Officers Strawberry Shake, Vanilla Shake, and Cherry Shake — ordered the drinks via mobile app, meaning the employees could not have known cops placed the order.

Additionally, the documents state the order was “already packaged and waiting for pickup” when the officers arrived, making it impossible for Gilliam or any other employee to have added anything to the shakes when they saw the officers come in to claim them.

After the officers complained about the taste of the milkshakes and threw them out, Gilliam said he apologized and offered them vouchers for free replacements, which they accepted. However, they still told their Sergeant that Gilliam had put a “toxic substance” in their drinks, even though they had disposed of any evidence.

Claims of Wrongful Detainment 

The court documents go on to say that another officer arrived and detained the employees, who cooperated with the officer’s investigation. That process included interviews, searches, and tests, which showed no evidence of bleach or other toxins.

The NYPD also conducted a review of security footage, which independently determined that none of the employees put any kind of toxic substances in the officer’s drinks.

Despite all that, and even after the three officers were released from a hospital “without ever showing symptoms,” the NYPD still arrested Gilliam and brought him into the precinct, the suit stated.

Once in the precinct, the former manager was allegedly “interrogated for approximately one to two hours” and detained for around three hours, putting the total time he was detained by police in both the store and the precinct at approximately five to six hours.

Gilliam’s attorney is arguing that the officers had no probable cause or warrants for his arrest. An arrest that the lawsuit says caused him to suffer “emotional and psychological damages and damage to his reputation,” as well as economic damages from legal fees and missed wages, for which he is seeking both punitive and monetary damages.

None of the defendants have responded to requests for comment from the media.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NBC News)

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