Written by Tanya Terry
McLaren Health Care was to pay $20 million of the $641.25 million in the originally proposed settlement intended to resolve all litigation related to the water crisis against the state of Michigan, the city of Flint McLaren Flint Hospital and Rowe Engineering.
But the company asked for a reduction from their originally much larger contribution to $5 million in an October court filing, arguing most of those with potential claims against McLaren Flint Hospital have opted to pursue individual lawsuits instead of joining the proposed settlement. According to the settlement agreement, McLaren has the right to walk away from the settlement agreement because people who allege exposure to Legionella at McLaren Flint Hospital largely did not register for the settlement.
Although most defendants in the case have agreed to the amended proposal, the Flint City Council has not.
The Concerned Pastor for Social Action is one of the groups that filed the 2016 lawsuit over the Flint Water Crisis.
In January 2016 the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the ACLU of Michigan and Melissa Mays, a local resident, filed a lawsuit against the city of Flint and Michigan state officials, saying the defendants violated the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Since then, the Concerned Pastors have continued to fight for the residents of Flint. In April of this year, the Concerned Pastors for Social Action, in concert with other concerned citizens, sent a letter outlining their concerns regarding the Flint Water Crisis Settlement to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Gary Peters, Representative Dan Kildee, Judge Judith Levy and Governor Whitmer’s Faith Based & Urban Affairs Liaison, Dion Williams.
Although according to Pastor Alfred Harris, president of Concerned Pastors for Social Action, they did not receive an affirmative response from the letter, Harris said the Concerned Pastors will continue to be among the voices that will not be silenced-especially now that the proposed settlement amount has been reduced.
“I believe that McLaren being in this community for many, many decades and what the community has meant to them as far as being in the black and not in the red, I think this is the opportunity to help the citizens in the special way,” Harris said. “That would have been appropriate. It’s because of this community we are who we are.”
Harris said he believed McLaren should give the community the $20 million as a way of saying thank you.
Harris said he believes there is a problem with telling people they can either be part of a class action lawsuit or sue individually.
“I think having the agreement going into the process that if so many people don’t sign on was deceptive in and of itself because to me that says ‘I want you to be a part of the class action and I don’t want you to sign up separately and sue us,’” he added.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has linked McLaren Flint Hospital to Legionnaires’ cases dating back to 2008, and water experts believe the water source switchover that caused the water crisis exacerbated conditions that were already there.
“You don’t hurt me and then tell me how I have to respond to you,” Harris said, referring to this.
“I can be a part of a class action suit or I can sue you individually. That’s my United States right. Now, since enough people didn’t sign up to go along with your program, now you’re going to pull out $15 million? Thanks a lot McLaren!”
Harris said what the Concerned Pastors can do is voice their opinions, talk to the people in power and say what they feel is right or not right.
Levy will rule not only on the final approval of the settlement as a whole, but also on attorney fees of about $200 million.
“We’re against $200 million for attorney fees. That’s ridiculous! I’m not saying they shouldn’t be paid. But it’s hurtful that with those who have the power, nobody in the back room said ‘this is not adding up. These people have lost their lives, and these people’s children are going to be affected cognitively for the rest of their lives-and adults as well. We can’t take $200 million from the victims! We had a press conference to make it clear that we are not happy! It seems to me, from a layman’s standpoint, really exorbitant! The city of Flint residents were victims and they need to be made whole-not 50%, not 60%-100%. You did it. You brought these emergency managers in. They could do whatever they wanted to, when they wanted to and how they wanted to, and that’s what caused this disaster.”
Harris also said he believed the United States should have stepped in to help Flint and would have if it happened in a community that was not an economically deprived community that is mostly people of color.