After a bacterial infection killed a 6-year-old boy, officials warned residents in several Houston-area towns not to trust the municipal water supply.
Health officials are unsure if Josiah McIntyre contracted a Naegleria fowleri infection from water in his family home or at a neighborhood public splash park.
Officials in several cities, including Josiah’s hometown of Lake Jackson, urged people to boil the water before using it for anything other than flushing the toilet.
The city is currently flushing the water supply with chlorine, a process which should kill the bacteria.
Naegleria fowleri, also known as brain-eating amoeba, lives in warm water. It usually enters the body through the nose.
Health officials warn everyone to avoid getting water up their noses, avoid getting water in their eyes while showering, and watch for symptoms like vomiting, headaches, confusion, and seizures.
Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis infections could cause death in as little as five days.
Serious Illness and Public Water Supplies
Governments have a responsibility to provide clean water to people. But frequently, governments do not live up to this responsibility.
The events leading up to the landmark 2020 Flint Water Crisis settlement (pending Court Approval) are a good example.
In a 2014 cost-cutting move, officials terminated the city’s agreement with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department and began drawing the city’s drinking water from the Flint River.
Unbeknownst to anyone else, part of these cost-cutting measures included some dangerous shortcuts in terms of public safety.
For example, engineers did not include corrosion inhibitors in the new infrastructure.
That failure exposed tens of thousands of residents, most of whom are people of color, to dangerously high lead levels.
Then-Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency and a few top officials left.
Prosecutors filed criminal charges against over a dozen people. Most of those charges were dropped and forgotten.
Napoli Shkolnik attorneys, on the other hand, obtained a $600 million settlement (pending Court Approval). In a nearly unprecedented move, 80 percent of that money went directly to families affected by the crisis.
Generally, public and private landowners are legally responsible for injuries in situations like the Flint Water Crisis if:
- Duty: Typically, landowners have a duty of care to provide facilities which are reasonably safe for all users. That includes both adults in children. This legal responsibility varies slightly in some states and in some situations.
- Knowledge: The landowner must have actual or constructive knowledge (should have known) about the hazard. Victim/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Common insurance company defenses in these claims include assumption of the risk and comparative fault. Assumption of the risk usually involves a warning sign or safety alert.
Legally, this doctrine is a voluntary assumption of a known risk.
Comparative fault, which often comes up in car crash claims, shifts blame for the accident from the negligent party to the victim.
Your Claim for Damages
Like the Flint Water Crisis matter, most civil claims settle out of court.
These settlements hasten the outcome of the case, lower costs, and give litigants more control over the result. The overall success of a settlement depends on an attorney’s skills.
First, an attorney must collect evidence in the case. As mentioned, victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence by a preponderance of the proof.
Moreover, there is usually a link between the amount of evidence the victim presents and the amount of damages a jury awards. Insurance companies know these things, which is why evidence drives up a claim’s settlement value.
Second, an attorney must be a good negotiator. That means knowing when to compromise and knowing when to stand firm.
Otherwise, the victim might end up settling for less or the result might be delayed because of the lawyer’s intransigence.
You have the right to clean and safe water. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We handle these claims on a nationwide basis.