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Flint residents' class action over tainted water dismissed

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A federal judge has dismissed a class action by a group of residents of Flint, Michigan, who claimed the city had violated their constitutional rights by requiring them to pay for contaminated water because he said the federal court lacked jurisdiction in the case.

In an April 19 order dismissing the class action in Beatrice Boler et al v. Darnell Early et al., which stemmed from the ongoing water contamination crisis in Flint, Judge John Corbett O'Meara of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan noted that the court had previously “expressed its concern regarding its ability to exercise jurisdiction” in the matter, and had requested additional briefing in the case.

“Plaintiffs claim that the City violated their constitutional rights and state law by providing contaminated water and requiring them to pay for it,” said Judge O'Meara in his order. “Among other arguments, Defendants respond that Plaintiffs' constitutional claims under (a variety of constitutional provisions) are precluded by the Safe Drinking Water Act, which provides Plaintiffs with a comprehensive scheme of remedies, or by the availability of a state law breach of contract action.”

The judge wrote that the “safety of public water systems is a field occupied by the SDWA. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' federal remedy is under the SDWA, regardless of how their legal theories are framed in the complaint.” He also noted that the plaintiffs could seek relief under Michigan state law.

He said that because the plaintiffs could not seek relief on constitutional grounds and because they had not pursued a claim under the SDWA, “only state claims remain.

“Accordingly, the court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' complaint.”