The Supreme Court said Tuesday it won’t block a lawsuit by residents of Flint, Michigan, who are seeking to hold city officials accountable for the water crisis that sickened residents with lead contamination.
The switch to water from the Flint River occurred in 2014 and months later, the city announced there was fecal coliform bacteria detected in the water supply. The legal battle began in the months that followed.
Lawyers for the city asked the justices to step in and block the lawsuit, claiming their clients had immunity from such suits. In an unsigned Tuesday order, the court declined to do so, allowing the lawsuit to continue.
A federal appeals court previously ruled in favor of the residents.
“Knowing the Flint River water was unsafe for public use, distributing it without taking steps to counter its problems, and assuring the public in the meantime that it was safe is conduct that would alert a reasonable person to the likelihood of personal liability,” the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals held.
“Any reasonable official should have known that doing so constitutes conscience-shocking conduct prohibited by the substantive due process clause,” the court said.
The lawsuit is one of several brought by victims of the crisis in various state and federal courts.