By Bria Brown

(CBS DETROIT) – Preliminary approval of the $641.25 million civil Flint water settlement was granted earlier today by Judge Judith Levy of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The Court’s approval order will become effective on Jan. 27, 2021.

This preliminary approval formally establishes the process through which Flint residents can indicate their intention to file eligible settlement claims that will be processed and paid by the claims administrator. Judge Levy will still need to issue a final ruling on the settlement, depending on whether the settlement is fair, adequate and reasonable, after conducting a fairness hearing currently scheduled for July 12, 2021. It appears the public will be permitted an opportunity to offer input at the hearing, but the Court has discretion to control the extent of public input that will be permitted.

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“With Judge Levy’s preliminary approval granted, this historic settlement is one step closer to providing Flint residents with the financial relief that they may have otherwise never received if the legal back-and-forth were to continue in the courts,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “While final approval remains pending, the settlement can provide people with security that their claims will be heard and not tied up in legal proceedings for an indefinite period of time. Plaintiffs’ counsel and state attorneys, court-appointed mediators and a special master have all concurred that this agreement was made with the best interests of Flint in mind, and a federal judge has now determined that it meets the necessary preliminary legal requirements to proceed. As the court considers a final ruling in this settlement, we will continue to keep our focus on healing this embattled city.”

Flint residents will have 60 days to register to participate in the settlement program. Following the registration period, Flint residents who have registered will have 120 days to file the documents necessary to support their claims. Detailed information on the registration and the claims processes will shortly be available on the claims administrator website.

Assuming the Court ultimately grants final approval of the settlement, and there are no challenges to that Court order, it is estimated that the claims and payment process may be substantially complete before the end of 2021. The timeline may change depending on the Court’s schedule.

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Attorney General Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in August announced a $600 million preliminary agreement to settle the lawsuits filed against the State after the City of Flint switched is public water supply to the Flint River in 2014.

Defendants that joined the settlement since August include the city of Flint, which is providing $20 million through its insurer, and McLaren Regional Medical Center and Rowe Professional Services Co., which are contributing $20 million and $1.25 million, respectively.

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