Judge rules suits against both city, state can continue in Mississippi water crisis

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2023

Judge Carlton Reeves largely denied motions by the City of Jackson and the State of Mississippi to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims related to the ongoing Jackson Water Crisis, according to a press release.

The Jackson Water Crisis involves the lead poisoning of thousands of children, based on terrible governmental policies, lack of oversight, and the help of at least one private entity. Plaintiffs’ lawsuits seek justice for the decades of neglect that led the community to today’s crisis. As Judge Reeves aptly summarized in his order:

The Mississippians who brought this suit are children who have relied upon Jackson’s water all their lives. Far from sustaining life, they say, Jackson’s water shortens it: the lead-contaminated water that flows through Jackson’s pipes has poisoned their bodies and impeded their development. Worse, they continue, City and State officials have been deliberately indifferent to their plight.

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The City of Jackson’s response? That its officials’ claims of safety weren’t technically lies, but, even if they were, the city “did not compel [the Plaintiffs] to drink water.”

Leading these Mississippians in their journey for justice are water contamination attorneys from Levy Konigsberg LLP––a nationwide law firm that focuses on complex and high-stakes litigation. The water litigation department of Levy Konigsberg is known for its work in litigating the Flint Water Crisis in Michigan. In Flint, Attorney Corey Stern and his team brought lawsuits against the City of Flint, the State of Michigan, and private engineering firms Lockwood Andrews & Newnam and Veolia North America for their roles in the catastrophic mishandling of the community’s water systems. The result: a $626 million settlement with the City and State and an ongoing litigation against the private entities that contributed to the crisis and against the Environmental Protection Agency for its role in prolonging the crisis.

In Jackson, the lawsuits originate from the City’s and State’s decade-long history of ignoring warnings of unsafe lead levels in public drinking water. The complaints explain that Jackson residents were exposed to terribly unsafe lead levels due to the City’s’, State’s, and private actors’ slow, inadequate, and dishonest reactions at every turn, in conjunction with the botched distribution of water to residents of Jackson. Based on this conduct, Stern and his team brought federal constitutional claims and state law negligence claims against the City and the Mississippi Department of Health (“MSDH”) and their employees, as well as negligence claims against a private entity, Trilogy Engineering. The City and State moved to dismiss all claims against them, continuing their pattern and practice of blame shifting. In response, Judge Reeves ruled that the lawsuits could proceed because Plaintiffs sufficiently pleaded that the City deprived the children of their constitutional right to bodily integrity, and that the MSDH could be held liable under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. Judge Reeves also ruled that Plaintiffs could proceed on state law negligence claims against the City.

What does this mean? This means that the Mississippians legal claims are alive and well and that the actors responsible for the Jackson Water Crisis are one step closer to answering for their utter ineptness.

Stern, speaking from experience, explains the import of the children’s claims: “Lead poisoning is dangerous for everyone, but lead exposure is particularly unsafe for children, who can become chronically ill or suffer permanent developmental and cognitive deficits.”

Individuals that have been exposed to unsafe drinking water in Jackson or who have been negatively impacted by the City and State’s failure to adequately address the water issues, can learn more about pursuing a lawsuit and contact Levy Konigsberg by visiting www.levylaw.com.

Judge Carlton Reeves’ recent order allowing the law suits to proceed can be found by clicking here.