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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Flint water settlement fairness hearing ends with clash over attorney fees

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steve carmody
/
Michigan Radio

Three days of hearings focused on the fairness of a $641 million settlement of civil claims tied to the Flint water crisis have come to an end.

Thursday’s final day of hearings focused on how much the lawyers will be paid.

Lawyer Frank Bednarz represents an advocacy group opposed to large attorney fees in civil suits.

He asked the judge to take time to review the attorneys' request for nearly a third of the $641 million settlement. 

“Claimants in Flint are going to need every scrap of relief they can get,” said Bednarz.

However, the lead attorneys in the settlement pushed back against Bednarz’ objection to their legal fees.

Counsel Liaison Corey Stern said the plaintiffs’ attorneys have spent more than 182,000 hours on the settlement.

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Credit steve carmody / Michigan Radio
“Claimants in Flint are going to need every scrap of relief they can get,” said attorney Frank Bednarz.

“If you do the math, that is 20 years worth of work,” said Stern, “on an hour, by hour, by hour, by hour basis.”

Stern also notes that about 80% of the 50,614 people registered in the settlement already have signed agreements setting their attorneys' compensation.

Attorneys Thursday also argued over the use of bone scan technology to determine lead exposure. The scan could enable a plaintiff to qualify for a larger award under the settlement. 

But lawyers complain that only a limited number of plaintiffs had access to the testing. Others contend the test should not be considered since the device used is not approved for use on humans.

It will be up to U.S. District Judge Judith Levy to decide whether to approve the final settlement and how much attorneys in the class action part of the settlement will receive.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Levy told the attorneys who attended over a Zoom link that she will take their motions under advisement and continue to do some research. 

The judge says she knows settlement case “matters to a great many people.”

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