The parents of a 2-year-old Flint, Michigan, girl sued the city and state on Monday over high levels of lead in the child's blood, accusing officials of callous and deliberate indifference over contaminated water.
The lawsuit by Flint residents Luke Waid and Michelle Rodriguez said government officials and workers had violated their constitutional rights to due process in the course of switching the source of the city's water to the Flint River from Lake Huron in April 2014.
They named as defendants Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the former director of the state environmental quality department and other workers, former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose, former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and other city officials.
The case, brought in federal court in Detroit, is the first based on a specific individual injury. Several other lawsuits have been filed claiming more general harm from contaminated tap water in Flint.
Flint, with about 100,000 residents, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched the source of its water. The city switched back last October after tests found high levels of lead in children's blood samples.
Lead can be toxic. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning, which can cause developmental problems.
At a press conference after the lawsuit was filed, Waid said that a Women, Infants and Children program official told him that his daughter had elevated lead levels in about August 2014 and the family spent thousands of dollars on home repairs believing it was due to lead paint.
"They could have told us months in advance and we could have had home filtration systems set up so that it could have never gotten this far," he said.
The lawsuit claimed that officials' failure to promptly tell residents of tap water test results or apply corrosion controls to protect city pipes violated the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act.
"The drinking water provided by defendant City of Flint was, at all relevant times, an unreasonably dangerous and defective product when used for its advertised and intended purpose," the lawsuit said.
The family, including daughter Sophia, used the water to drink, bathe, cook and clean after state and local officials said it was safe. The lawsuit said the child suffered from high levels of lead in her blood, skin rashes, digestive issues, infections and other problems.
The lawsuit is seeking awards for medical monitoring, property repairs, compensatory and punitive damages.