Federal judge lets Flint water lawsuit continue against Snyder

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

A lawsuit filed against former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other state and local officials by the estate of a woman who died during the Flint Water Crisis can continue, a federal judge ruled last week.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy allowed the case filed by the family of Odie Brown, a resident of Flint who died from Legionnaires’ disease on Jan. 9, 2015, to move forward against the former governor as well as former state environmental officials and former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

Levy dismissed from the lawsuit former state Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and others.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in Washington, Thursday, March 17, 2016, to look into the circumstances surrounding high levels of lead found in many residents' tap water in Flint.

The suit contends that Brown’s death resulted from exposure to Flint’s lead contaminated water.

Snyder was governor during the water crisis and had tapped two emergency managers to operate the city after years of financial distress. One of the emergency managers made the fateful switch to the Flint River as the chief water source for the city, eventually exposing residents to Legionnaires' disease.

"But certainly the governor’s continued inaction following the switch reinforces this deliberate indifference," the judge wrote. "The fact that the governor authorized the switch to the Flint River knowing it was dangerous, and then did nothing for months despite ample notice of the harm Flint residents were experiencing states a claim of deliberate indifference."

Snyder argued that he should be dismissed on the "basis of sovereign immunity" and that should not allow a suit to proceed against him in his former capacity as governor.

Brown was 65 when she died of Legionnaires' disease, which was described as a severe type of pneumonia.


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