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Walters v. Flint

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20204
Nos. 17-10164, (E.D. Mich., 08/26/2020) (Levy, J.)

A district court denied EPA's motion to dismiss residents' negligence claim stemming from the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. Flint residents argued the Agency's slow response to the crisis negligently exposed them to lead-contaminated water. EPA moved to dismiss, contending it had not waived sovereign immunity under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) because Michigan law would not impose liability on private individuals in similar circumstances. The court found the residents alleged facts sufficient to support state law liability for a similarly situated private individual under the Good Samaritan doctrine—that EPA found safety violations and was actively involved with the city and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality while a lead-contaminated public water supply system persisted for months—and thus that the Agency could be found liable under the FTCA. EPA then argued the residents' claim should be dismissed because two FTCA exceptions applied—the discretionary function exception and the misrepresentation exception. The court found that neither exception applied because EPA's conduct pursuant to §1414 of the SDWA was not discretionary and the residents did not allege that the Agency made any commercial or financial misrepresentations. It therefore denied EPA's motion to dismiss.