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‘Grossly Excessive’: Attorneys Seek $202M of $641M Settlement Over Flint Water Crisis

Attorneys representing Flint, Michigan, residents’ $641 million settlement of claims in connection with the water crisis would receive $202.8 million in fees, according to a new proposal filed this week.

According to the motion, “The fee proposal is designed to provide reasonable and fair compensation to plaintiffs’ counsel and to ensure equitable treatment for all who make claims under the settlement.”

Under the proposal filed with a federal judge Monday night, attorneys would receive a nearly $7.2 million reimbursement for expenses incurred by law firms.

In total the attorney fees would consume 32 percent of the $641.25 million settlement. Under the proposal, $431.1 million would remain for distribution among 100,000 Flint residents, equivalent to about $4,300 each person. However, larger payments would go to those who were children when the crisis began in 2014.

About 80 percent of the money remaining after lawyer fees are paid would go to people who were minors when first exposed to the contaminated water when the city used the river as its water source.

The disaster began when city’s drinking water supply was switched from Lake Huron to Flint River water treated at the Flint Water Treatment Plant. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality later admitted it did not require the proper corrosion control chemicals in the water treatment process, leading to toxic lead being leached from aging pipes throughout the city system.

Residents can make claims up until March 29. To register a claim, residents can visit the Flint Water Official Settlement Website or by calling 800-493-1754.

The 58-page proposal needs to be approved by U.S. District Judge Judith Levy, who will also have to approve the entire settlement later this year.

The motion, signed by over 40 plaintiff lawyers, reads, “This substantial recovery was secured only through the focused and diligent advocacy and considerable investment of time, expenses and risk-taking of plaintiffs’ counsel.”

The lead Flint attorneys include Corey Stern of New York, Theodore Leopold and Leslie Kroger of Florida, Hunter Shkolnik of Puerto Rico, and Michael Pitt and Cary McGehee of Royal Oak. Combined, they have worked 182,571 hours hours on the case, according to court documents.

While a 32 percent contingency fee is typical in civil lawsuits, experts said that the percentage is high for a “megafund” settlement like Flint.

On Tuesday, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch called the motion “a grossly excessive money grab that would leave the victims in Flint with tens of millions of dollars less than they deserve from the legal settlement.”

Andy Jardini, a California attorney who litigates class-action suits, told the Detroit Free Press, “The higher the amount of the settlement, the lower the appropriate percentage.”

He said that in a $1 billion settlement, attorney fees should be someone in the neighborhood of 10 percent.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office said it cannot share an opinion on attorney fees an expenses “unless specifically asked by the Court.”

The attorney fee rate is within the range state defendants in the case have approved: The maximum percentage was caped at 33.33 percent.

Less than 24 hours after the attorneys filed the proposal, a petition asking a judge to reject the motion was launched by Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch.

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