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Flint Water Lawsuits Partially Revived

A prior blog post addressed the dismissal of Boler et al.v Early et al. and Mays et al. v Snyder et al. on the basis that the Safe Drinking Water Act (“SDWA”) provides a comprehensive enforcement mechanism demonstrating congressional intent to preclude suits for depravations of constitutional rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has partially reinstated both cases. After review of the specific language and remedial scheme created by the SDWA, coupled with the rights and protections afforded persons under the Act, the Court of Appeals concluded that Congress did not intend to foreclose suits enforcing constitutional rights.

The Court of Appeals did find however that Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity precluded suits against the State of Michigan and its agencies, the MDEQ and MDHHS. As a result, it reaffirmed the dismissal of the claims in both suits against those defendants. The Court made it clear that its holding related to jurisdictional matters only and remanded the case back to the district court to determine the merits of the claims.