Back in 2017, six residents of Brighton Township, Michigan, filed a lawsuit against General Motors alleging that the automaker had not only contaminated the local water supply, but had known about the issue and actively covered it up for three decades. Now, new developments in the lawsuit look as though it is still nowhere close to resolution.
The original lawsuit was filed in December of 2017, stating that General Motors’ use of road salt at the Milford Proving Grounds resulted in abnormally high levels of salt seeping into the local drinking water. The lawsuit goes on to state that the excess salt “has caused and will cause the chemical extraction from the earth, and transport into the water used by Plaintiffs, of existing but otherwise dormant hazardous substances including, but not limited to, arsenic.”
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that General Motors has known about the issue since 1985, and even commissioned its own study to examine the problem, but did not disclose the issue until 2014. At that time, General Motors began to deliver cases of drinking water to affected residents, and declared that it would cut salt usage at the Milford Proving Grounds by as much as 60 percent.
Nevertheless, the Milford residents moved forward with the lawsuit, seeking compensation for property damage and personal injury, as well as the cost for obtaining drinking water. GM defended itself by stating that salt deposits are naturally occurring, and that salt usage at the Milford facility has been drastically cut. What’s more, the automaker argued that the litigation could not be permitted to proceed as it pertained to the “Old GM,” as opposed to the “New GM” created after the automaker filed for bankruptcy.
According to a recent report from WHMI, the lawsuit was subsequently moved to the U.S. District Court in Detroit, which determined that New GM could indeed be held liable for damages for failing to comply with environmental laws. Earlier, General Motors was granted a motion for a stay of trial pending a Court of Appeals order.
An appeals panel heard oral arguments this past July, and ruled that the plaintiff’s claims on the conduct of Old GM are barred by the statute of limitations, thus reversing the order of the trial court denying GM’s motion for immediate dismissal. However, the court remanded the counts to the trial court, allowing the plaintiffs to amend their complaints such that they would not entitle General Motors to a dismissal.
We’ll see where the lawsuit heads next, but for now, it looks as though it’s far from reaching a conclusion.