FLINT, MI — A juror’s illness has halted a bellwether Flint water crisis civil trial that started in February and concerns about the potential spread of COVID-19 could cause further delays.
U.S. District Court Judge Judith E. Levy announced the pause in the trial on Tuesday, May 17, and said the case would remain on hold until the juror who is ill takes a coronavirus test and receives results “out of an abundance of caution.”
Levy told attorneys for four Flint children and two water consultants they are suing that she would meet with them later Tuesday to determine when the trial might resume. The judge said the juror who is ill reported that she did not have immediate access to a rapid COVID-19 test.
Members of the 10-person jury, which is hearing the case in federal court in Ann Arbor, have been required to wear masks and to social distance throughout the trial while witnesses and attorneys who are questioning witnesses have been allowed to unmask.
It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday morning when the results of the juror’s COVID-19 test would be available or how long the trial could be delayed if her test is positive.
“Your honor, I hate to bring this up, but … she was in that jury box and room with the rest of the jurors all day yesterday,” said James M. Campbell, an attorney for Veolia North America, one of the consultants that the children are suing for professional negligence.
Another engineering consultant — Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam — is the other defendant in the case.
Attorneys for the children claim their clients were lead poisoned by lead in Flint’s water, leaving them with health problems, including brain damage and emotional deficits, and say Veolia and LAN are partially responsible for their injuries because they were negligent in advising Flint officials during the water crisis.
The companies have disputed the children’s injuries in court filings and say government officials are responsible for the high levels of lead in Flint water in 2014 and 2015 while the city used the Flint River as its water source.
Attorneys for the children said Tuesday that this week’s delay could cause scheduling problems for a key witness who began his testimony on Monday, May 16.
Dr. William Bithoney, who the children’s attorneys call “probably the most preeminent expert” on lead poisoning in the country, was scheduled to resume his testimony Tuesday but may have conflicts if the case is delayed more than a day because of a death in his family.
Read more at The Flint Journal:
Flint mayor announces forum, hopes for new level of confidence in city water
Flint kids in water crisis lawsuit suffered acquired brain injuries, expert says
Deadline for filing claims in Flint water settlement extended to June 30
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