Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on Flint water class-action lawsuit

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
An exterior of the Michigan Hall of Justice, also known as the Michigan Supreme Court building in Lansing, June 24, 2015.

Lansing — The Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether a class-action lawsuit against former Gov. Rick Snyder and the state of Michigan can proceed.

The Supreme Court in its Wednesday order said parties should prepare arguments regarding when the Flint residents’ claims were accrued, whether they are subject to exceptions to the timeline for giving notice of a lawsuit in the Court of Claims, whether Flint residents have a constitutional claim to say their bodily integrity was violated and what direct harm, if any, was done to Flint residents’ property.

The court stopped short of scheduling a day for the arguments.

Lawyers for Flint resident Melissa Mays and other plaintiffs in the case could not immediately be reached.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said officials are reviewing the court’s decision, but declined to comment further.

The state has maintained that the January 2016 lawsuit filed by Mays against Snyder, the state environmental and health departments, the city of Flint and two Flint emergency managers did not comply with a six-month notice requirement pertaining to lawsuits filed in the Court of Claims. The state also argued emergency managers appointed by the governor are not considered state officials.

The state Court of Appeals in January 2018 upheld an earlier Court of Claims decision and denied the state’s motion for summary disposition on those grounds, noting that dismissal of the case on those arguments would be “premature.”

“…accepting defendants’ position would require a finding that plaintiffs should have filed suit or provided notice at a time when the state itself claims it had no reason to know that the Flint River water was contaminated,” the Court of Appeals ruled.

Mays and others who filed the suit could be subject to exceptions to the timeline for giving notice based on the potential that the state attempted to fraudulently conceal the damage caused by the Flint water crisis.

“Whether plaintiffs can satisfy the exception is a question that involves disputed facts and is subject to further discovery,” the appellate ruling said.

In March 2018, the state began its appeal to the Supreme Court, but the high court did not order oral arguments until Wednesday.

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