In late May 2022, Lieff Cabraser and civil rights legends Edwards & Jennings, P.C. filed a proposed Second Amended Class Action Complaint on behalf of the residents of Benton Harbor, Michigan, in the federal public health emergency litigation arising from the poisoning of the Benton Harbor, Michigan, water supply caused by lead, bacteria, and other contaminants. As described in the Complaint, since at least 2018, Benton Harbor residents, including children and infants, have been exposed, through ingestion and other uses of water, to dangerously high levels of lead and other contaminants that exceed those permissible under the state and national Safe Drinking Water Acts.
An environmental justice community most impacted by environmental harms and risks with a population composed primarily of 85% African-American residents, 27% of Benton Harbor’s population are children. The plaintiffs, many of whom are children and infants, have been and continue to be exposed to extreme toxicity from lead and other hazardous contaminants, causing an “imminent and substantial endangerment to their health.”
“All families are entitled to clean drinking water,” notes Lieff Cabraser partner Mark P. Chalos, who represents the families along with Edwards & Jennings. “No government should turn a blind eye to reports of lead and dangerous pathogens in drinking water.”
Lieff Cabraser will be presenting along with Edwards & Jennings partners Alice Jennings and Carl Edwards at a Town Hall meeting in Benton Harbor at noon on June 4, 2022 at the Hilton Garden Inn at 1300 Cinema Way in Benton Harbor to provide an update and discussion about the Benton Harbor lead poisoning water crisis and the related federal litigation on behalf of Benton Harbor residents. For further information on the Town Hall, call (269) 621-5326.
The lawsuit seeks relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages and an order declaring the defendants’ conduct unconstitutional, as well as:
- an order of equitable and injunctive relief to remediate the harm caused, including repairs and compensation for property damage;
- immediate abatement of the lead service lines;
- clean uncontaminated water to be delivered to each affected home until the lead lines are fully replaced;
- establishment of a medical monitoring process and periodic medical testing;
- the appointment of a Monitor to oversee the water operations of Benton Harbor; and
- the establishment of a Community Medical Center for the coordination of care for exposed children
The suit also seeks forgiveness of all Benton Harbor loans for replacement pipes and related infrastructural work, and an immediate injunction to stop all Benton Harbor residents from paying for the contaminated water as well as disgorgement of all monies previously paid for contaminated water.