Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Water Rights Litigation Update

In a groundbreaking case, the ACLU of Michigan, the NAACP LDF, and others, in July filed a class action lawsuit seeking to permanently end Detroit's practice of shutting off water to households regardless of need. While shutoffs are suspended to the end of the year by virtue of the Governor's emergency order, they are slated to resume eventually. In addition to injunctive relief, plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages for the injuries that they suffered as a result of past household water shutoffs, some of which extended for years.

Importantly, this suit raises the novel claim that water access is a substantive due process right, particularly during a pandemic when public health is jeopardized by lack of household water. In addition, the suit presents compelling data to establish that discriminatory, racially-based shutoffs violated civil rights laws.  

Speaking to the press, the defendants have asserted that the complaint is rendered moot by the temporary restoration of water services during COVID-19.  A formal response to the complaint is expected in the coming weeks.


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