Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Waid v. Earley

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20127
Nos. 19-1425, 19-1472, 19-1477, and 19-1533, (6th Cir., 05/22/2020)

The Sixth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that denied city and state officials' motions to dismiss residents' bodily integrity claim stemming from the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. City officials argued they were entitled to qualified immunity because they acted on professional opinions from Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials and private engineering firms. State officials also argued they were entitled to qualified immunity because their decisions were based on a mistaken but reasonable interpretation of EPA's Lead and Copper Rule. The court found that the officials' alleged actions—rushing to switch to the Flint River, repeatedly refusing to reconnect to Detroit's water system, distorting water quality tests, etc.—despite being aware that Flint River water was contaminated plausibly demonstrated deliberate indifference to the crisis. The city argued it was entitled to Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity because it was under state emergency management during the events leading up to and during the crisis. The court found that the city was not acting as an arm of the state when under state emergency management and thus that the district court correctly concluded the city was not entitled to sovereign immunity. The current governor also argued she was entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity because the alleged unconstitutional conduct occurred solely in the past and she personally did not commit the initial violations. The court found it did not matter what the governor did or did not do in the past because the past deliberate indifference has continuing effects, and thus concluded that the district court rightly rejected the governor's claim. It therefore affirmed the denial of the motions to dismiss with respect to every defendant except one city official, and remanded for the district court to decide whether that official should be dismissed.