Flint water crisis: Lawyers urge Michigan Supreme Court to let residents sue officials

Lawyers urged the Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday to clear the way for Flint residents to sue state officials over lead-contaminated water.

The case at the state’s highest court is one of many in state and federal courts over the scandal. What’s unique, however, is that it could break ground in exposing public officials to liability over alleged violations of the state constitution.

Justice Stephen Markman peppered lawyers on both sides with questions, acknowledging that the Flint water crisis was a “terrible harm.” But not every harm, he added, violates the constitution and deserves a remedy.

The attorney general’s office is appealing a 2018 decision by the state appeals court, which said that Flint residents could pursue a violation of their right to “bodily integrity.”

Julie Hurwitz, an attorney for a large potential class of Flint residents, said the case involves tainted water but the issue is much broader: a right to have government tell citizens the truth.

“If we cannot hold this state liable for its role in perpetuating an ongoing invasion of poison in our communities, I would suggest our constitution would not be worth the paper it’s written on,” Hurwitz said.

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