On Monday, February 7, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan denied in part a professional engineering company’s motion for summary judgment in Walters et al. v. Flint et al., part of the ongoing Flint water litigation. Plaintiffs in the litigation sought to hold the engineering company, which has served as a water engineer for the City of Flint since at least 2011 and had been involved in discussing and planning the city’s possible switch of water source, liable for professional negligence based on the company’s failure to warn the city of its plan’s shortcomings or otherwise recommend corrective measures.
Although the district court granted summary judgment for the engineering company on one of three theories of liability, it found sufficient facts existed to proceed to trial on two other theories—its negligent and incorrect advice to the city regarding its water treatment plant and (ii) its negligent failure to warn the city of the consequences of the city’s decision not to use orthophosphates after it also decided not to use appropriate corrosion controls. Although bellwether trials are set to begin this month and the factual record may cause the court to reach a different outcome, the case is an inherent warning to engineering companies to be aware of their professional duties in environmental matters.