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Flint, MI– McLaren Hospital may be significantly reducing their contributions to the Flint water lawsuit settlement, or walking away entirely.
To the dismay of some members on the Flint City Council, the decision has been put on them.
The $641.25 million settlement, announced in August of last year, would resolve all litigation related to the water crisis against the State of Michigan, the City of Flint, Rowe Engineering, and McLaren Hospital.
The State of Michigan is contributing $600 million, the City of Flint is contributing $20 million, Rowe Engineering is contributing $1.25 million, and McLaren Hospital was set to contribute $20 million.
McLaren, specifically, has the right to walk away from the settlement agreement only if people who allege exposure to Legionella at McLaren Flint Hospital do not register for the settlement. Since a majority of those people did not register for the settlement, McLaren therefore has the legal right to leave the settlement, according to the settlement agreement.
During a committee meeting on Sept. 8, the council was presented with a resolution that would allow McLaren to remain a part of the settlement, but reduce their contributions from $20 million to $5 million.
Attorney Rick Berg, who represents the City of Flint as an entity in the settlement, urged the council to vote to approve the resolution.
“It’s $5 million more than would be there if McLaren walks away, which they have the right to do,” Berg said. “So the end result is, voting in favor of this amendment means there is more money available for the citizens than if you vote against it. Voting against the amendment means you’re taking $5 million away from the citizens.”
Councilwoman Monica Galloway expressed her dissatisfaction with the way this was being framed.
“It’s a dangerous thing, to me, for legal representation to present this to the community as if we should be grateful that they decided not to walk away with all 20, they’re going to leave five out of that 20,” she said. “And the reason why I say that is it’s a safety net for them … the reality is they don’t have as much freedom to walk away as they’re saying.”
By remaining a part of the settlement, even at reduced contributions, McLaren is protected from being sued outside of the settlement, Galloway explained. Berg confirmed that this was a fair statement.
“I didn’t like the way it was presented as if they’re doing the residents of the city of Flint a favor, when in actuality, they’re getting off extremely cheap for what they may or may not be responsible for,” Galloway said.
She asked if it was certain that McLaren would walk away entirely, if council did not approve allowing them to stay in the settlement at a reduced contribution.
Berg said it was “highly unlikely,” that they would remain in the settlement if the council did not approve their reduced contributions.
The council voted 5-4 to send the resolution to the next regular council meeting on Monday, Sept. 13, where it can be put to a final vote. Councilwoman Galloway, Councilman Eric Mays, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, and Councilman Maurice Davis voted against sending it to the next council meeting.