Attorney expects approval of $641.2 million Flint water settlement next month

Attorney expects approval of $641.2 million Flint water settlement next month
In this March 21, 2016, file photo the Flint Water Plant water tower is seen in Flint, Mich. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says a proposed $600 million deal between the state of Michigan and Flint residents harmed by lead-tainted water is a step toward making amends. Officials announced the settlement Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, which must be approved by a federal judge. (Source: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A public hearing on the $641.2 million proposed settlement happened Monday in Federal Court.

It gave residents of Flint impacted by the water crisis an opportunity to listen in on how the settlement is proceeding.

The hearing played out over a video conference. It lasted about 2 hours. At one point, Judge Judith Levy noted nearly 150 attorneys were in attendance.

ABC12 spoke one-on-one with Attorney Corey Stern about what you need to know.

“I think the most important thing is that this judge is thoughtful and thorough and willing to allow people to be heard, even if it makes her job more difficult,” he said.

Judge Levy held Monday’s hearing to help her decide if she’ll grant or deny preliminary approval of the proposed $641.2 million settlement.

She clarified details of the settlement with both sides and had what’s called a guardian of the court provide a review of the deal.

It’s been negotiated between attorneys representing people impacted by the water crisis and the parties they say contributed to it -- the state, McLaren Hospital, Rowe Professional Services and the City of Flint.

“You know, to the extent anybody thinks that if the city votes no on this then preliminary approval is going to get blown up, I could tell you you are sorely mistaken,” Stern said. “I know that the final product of the settlement, as imperfect as it is, is about as good as we could ever expect under all the circumstances.”

Stern is expecting an approval when the judge announces her decision next month.

He currently represents about 4,000 people - Flint kids and their parents.

“It’s a crowning achievement in my opinion for people in Flint who for years and years and years feel as though they’ve been an afterthought,” he added.

Stern also made the point that this settlement doesn’t finish the job. There are still multiple outstanding lawsuits against entities like the EPA, LAN & Veolia Engineering firms, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo to name a few. More money for those impacted by the water crisis is expected.

So what comes next?

If preliminary approval is granted next month, a complex legal process has to play out before any money is disbursed.

  • People can register to claim a settlement, which Stern said will be very simple.
  • They then would have 60 to 90 days to file a formal claim, which Stern said will involve saying basically that they lived in Flint during the water crisis after April 25, 2014.
  • A third party will look at every claim to decide whether it meets the settlement criteria and decide how much should be awarded.
  • An appeal process will be established for people who want to refute their damage amount.
  • The money will be disbursed to approved recipients.

Adults will get their settlement money right away. For children under age 18, the court will work with their parents to decide how to pay out the reward, but interest will accrue on the money during that process.

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