FLINT, Mich. — A U.S. District Court judge will allow plaintiffs to testify in a civil lawsuit stemming from the Flint water crisis after a lawyer in the case said he was concerned about COVID-19.
Judge Judith E. Levy on Wednesday, March 30 granted a motion to allow Miguel del Toral, believed to be a key figure and whistleblower in the water crisis, to testify remotely over fears of contracting COVID-19.
The motion was filed by lawyers representing the families of four children who are suing two engineering firms for alleged negligence in relation to the water crisis.
The lawsuit alleges that the children were injured by exposure to lead in Flint’s drinking water. Officers of these companies – Veolia North America, LLC; Veolia North America, Inc.; and Veolia Water North America Operations Services, LLC (VNA); and Lockwood, Andrews and Newnan, PC; and Lockwood Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN) — Denies that they were negligent and that they are responsible for the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries.
VNA and LAN were not part of the $626.5 million partial settlement in the Flint water case.
The bellwether trial, which began on February 28 and is expected to last about four months, will involve the testimony of dozens of witnesses. It’s called a bellwether trial because it predicts how fair the other plaintiffs might be if they decide to go to trial against those defendants.
Former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling has been on the witness stand in the case since Monday, March 28, and is expected to testify at 9 a.m. Monday, April 4.
By granting plaintiffs’ motion, Levy allowed Del Torral to testify remotely from out of state.
Lawyers for the VNA and LAN objected to allowing him to testify remotely because of the potential technical issues with the on-site remote inspection, though they both said they preferred del Toral’s live testimony to video testimony.
Del Toral is a whistleblower for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who helped expose Flint’s water leadership. He has previously testified that he told state drinking water officials that the city should be required to treat Flint River water to make it less corrosive — which never happened.
Del Torral is expected to testify next week.
Also expected to testify in the coming days are Apricot Teed, the mother of one of the four child plaintiffs; Dietrich White, a daycare teacher for one of the children ; Danielle Wheeler, the mother of one of the child plaintiffs; the plaintiff’s grandmother, Melinda Kelly; and VNA engineer Marvin Gnagy.
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