by Scott McClallen
The hearing to determine the official approval of the state’s $600 million Flint water civil settlement began Monday at 10 a.m. in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
In January, Judge Judith Levy preliminarily approved the settlement establishing the process for eligible Flint residents to file settlement claims processed and paid by the claims administrator.
In August, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state’s portion of the preliminary agreement to settle the lawsuits after the city of Flint switched its public water supply to the Flint River in 2014.
Settlement defendants include the Flint, McLaren Regional Medical Center, and Rowe Professional Services Co.
The fairness hearing is scheduled to take three days, skipping Wednesday and ending Thursday.
Judge Levy will listen to arguments and objections to determine whether the settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable. A final ruling is anticipated to be entered this summer.
More information can be found on the court’s website.
If the settlement is approved and funds are distributed to claimants, the state will have spent over $1 billion on the city’s recovery efforts. Past contributions include a settlement agreement for $97 million to replace all of the city’s lead water system service lines. So far, the State has spent nearly $423 million in response to the Flint water emergency.
Following the preliminary approval in January, Flint residents had 60 days ending in March to register for the settlement program. About 85,000 registrations were filed. A data review is now underway to verify authentic registrations.
The next step is the claims period, which can open before final approval is granted and is expected to commence by August. Once the claims period begins, registered Flint residents will have 120 days to file the documents necessary to support their claims.
More information will be available on the claims administrator website.
The preliminary agreement specified about 80% of the settlement fund will be spent on children’s claims who were minors when first exposed to the Flint River water. A large majority will pay for claims of children age six and younger. About 2% will fund special education services in Genesee County. Another 18% of the net settlement funds will be spent on adults’ claims and for property damage. Roughly 1% will go toward claims for business losses.
The individual settlement amount won’t be determined until the claims process proceeds as it depends, in part, on the number of claims submitted and found to be eligible.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.