Editorial: Settling Flint civil suits the smart choice for state
The state of Michigan is in a similar spot that Michigan State University was in when deciding how to handle lawsuits from the victims of serial molester Dr. Larry Nassar.
It faces sympathetic plaintiffs in the Flint water contamination lawsuits, and its negligence seems clear.
MSU decided to settle before the cases came to trial, and Michigan would be smart to follow the advice of Attorney General Dana Nessel and do the same.
The attorney general has spoken with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders about reaching a settlement in the 79 civil cases, which claim bungling by the administration of former Gov. Rick Snyder contributed to the harm residents suffered from lead-tainted water.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, says lawmakers are meeting to figure how to finance a settlement, which could easily top $100 million. MSU settled claims last year from 322 Nassar victims for $500 million.
It's far more prudent for the state to negotiate a settlement that it is prepared in advance to pay rather than trust its fate to jury trials, where damage awards could become astronomical.
As House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, acknowledged, what happened in Flint represented "a breakdown of government" at all levels. And as a result, citizens were harmed. There's a price to be paid for such neglect.
Settling the civil lawsuits won't put the Flint crisis in the past. The criminal cases against former Snyder administration officials continues, and appears to be expanding. Work to replace the city's water lines is not yet complete.
But putting an end to the civil litigation would bring at least one chapter to a close. And it would also put a definitive figure on the liability of Michigan taxpayers must shoulder for making the victims whole.