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Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health

City of Flint v. Guertin

Overview

City of Flint v. Guertin (U.S. Supreme Court, denial of certiorari, Jan. 21, 2020): The Supreme Court declined to hear a case in which city officials and state regulators involved in the Flint, Michigan water crisis sought dismissal of a lawsuit by asserting immunity. In 2014, when Flint changed the source of public water from Lake Huron to the Flint River, it failed to take adequate measures to prevent pipe corrosion and otherwise ensure the water was potable. Shari Guertin, mother of a child exposed to Flint lead-laden water, along with others, sued state regulators and local officials alleging a violation of their constitutional right to bodily integrity by switching to unsafe water. Several defendants moved to dismiss claiming they had qualified immunity, which stops lawsuits against government actors unless they commit a deprivation of a clearly established constitutional right that is “repugnant” or shocks the conscience. City defendants also claimed sovereign immunity, normally reserved for states, arguing they had operated as an “arm of the state” during the state’s emergency management efforts. The Sixth Circuit determined dismissal of the case against several defendants was not warranted. Following the Supreme Court’s denial of review, Guertin’s case will proceed. Read the Sixth Circuit’s decision here. Read the Supreme Court filings and certiorari denial here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – February 18, 2020.

View all cases under “Constitutional Rights & the Public’s Health.”