06/30/22 | CASE UPDATE

On June 13, 2022, Magistrate Judge Lisa A. Jensen held a conference with the parties to discuss the possibility of settlement. Generally, settlement conferences are confidential, so we cannot disclose what happened and what was said. We can report, however, that the Court has scheduled another settlement conference for August 26, 2022. In the interim, the case has been stayed—or effectively paused—pending water-quality testing of a sample of homes by an independent company.

Are you a resident of Sycamore, Illinois, who has been exposed to the city's discolored, lead-filled tap water?

The city of Sycamore should be held responsible for putting your health at risk and neglecting to maintain its deteriorating water system. Fill out the form to find out your rights to potential compensation »

Case Status
Active
Court
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Case Number
1:20-cv-06476
Defendant(S)
City of Sycamore
File Date

Residents of Sycamore, Illinois, have sued the city in a class action, alleging that the city of Sycamore created a public health crisis through decades of negligence. The lawsuit states that the city allowed its water system to corrode and deteriorate to where hundreds of residents now lack one of life's most basic needs: clean water.

SYCAMORE, ILLINOIS, WATER CRISIS EXPLAINED

Many Sycamore residents have reported chronic health issues related to exposure to the city's water. Cancer rates are high, and some Sycamore residents have suffered from strange brain issues, the lawsuit states. Some young girls have reported losing hair, while other children exposed to the city's water exhibit abnormally aggressive behavior. Long-term effects can be worse, especially among children. Ingesting lead can hamper brain development and lead to impaired hearing, reduced physical height and learning disabilities.

According to the lawsuit, the overwhelming stench, taste and health risks of the municipal water force residents to cook and brush their teeth with bottled water. They also use bottled water for drinking, and some residents have gone so far as to use disposable plates and utensils due to the city water’s shocking ability to stain clothes, dishes and more with its reported red-orange color. As for its odor, it allegedly smells like sewage. Simply showering can stink up an entire home, attorneys say.

CITY FAILS TO RESPOND TO RESIDENTS’ CONCERN

As the lawsuit notes, when Sycamore residents voiced concern over the safety of the city’s water in 2016, the city repeatedly replied that its water was up to Environmental Protection Agency standards and that the source of the problem was household water heaters or other home fixtures. This led some residents to purchase new appliances and other expensive replacement products, to no avail. In fact, the amount of lead in Sycamore's water supply was well beyond safe levels, and the city was aware that its system was in serious need of updating. 

Instead of responding to its residents and fixing its water system, the city of Sycamore consistently puts off maintenance. The mains have deteriorated to the point where large amounts of iron are present in the city’s water supply, the complaint states. And when iron interacts with chlorine that the city treats its water supply with, it creates waterborne bacteria, which further imperils residents’ health.

YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS

Hagens Berman believes the city of Sycamore must take immediate action to fix this widespread issue affecting residents. The people of Sycamore deserve better. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for affected Sycamore residents, as well as reimbursement for property repairs and the establishment of a medical monitoring program to provide health care and other services to impacted parties. The lawsuit also seeks to compel the city to establish an adequate system to control erosion and replace all water mains installed prior to 1960.

TOP CIVIL-RIGHTS LAW FIRM

Hagens Berman is one of the most successful plaintiff litigation law firms in the U.S. and has achieved more than $320 billion in settlements for clients in lawsuits against some of the world's largest entities for wrongdoing and negligence. Your claim will be handled by attorneys experienced in civil rights law. The firm is also in the process of litigating a class-action lawsuit against the city of Chicago over elevated lead levels in its water supply, and has also taken on big corporations in Florida polluting residents’ air.

NO COST TO YOU

There is no cost or fee whatsoever involved in joining this action. In the event Hagens Berman or any other firm obtains a settlement that provides benefits to class members, the court will decide a reasonable fee to be awarded to the legal team for the class. In no case will any class member ever be asked to pay any out-of-pocket sum.

Case Timeline
Title
Complaint filed
Date
Title
Case Update
Description

For much of the past year, the parties have been engaged in the discovery phase, exchanging relevant documents and evidence.

The exchange and review of these documents takes time. Depositions of city employees and other witnesses will account for much of the remaining discovery period. Depositions should begin in the spring.

Regarding the recently announced lead service line replacement program offered by the city, this was not a direct result of anything that happened in the lawsuit. While Hagens Berman still has some questions and concerns, we believe it is a positive development and urge eligible residents to contact the city. If you do not know if you have a lead service line leading into your home, this can be confirmed by a simple scratch test or by a licensed plumber.

Case Status
Date
Title
Case Update
Description

On March 25, 2022, Judge Franklin Valderrama transferred this case from the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois (in Chicago) to the Western Division of the Northern District of Illinois (in Rockford). As a result, District Judge Iain D. Johnston and Magistrate Judge Lisa A. Jensen will now be presiding over the case in Rockford, Illinois. On April 19, 2022, Magistrate Judge Jensen publicly ordered the parties to exchange letters related to settlement. Plaintiffs have submitted their letter outlining their initial offer of settlement to the City, and now await a response from the City, due May 6, 2022. Judge Jensen has also set a status conference for May 17, 2022, to discuss the parties’ letters and the potential value of a settlement conference. Plaintiffs believe they have made a reasonable and fair settlement proposal, and remain hopeful that a resolution can be reached out-of-court, which would allow the City to preserve funds and resources that would otherwise be spent on litigation to instead be used for improving Sycamore’s water system. We look forward to seeing the City’s response.

Concurrently, the parties are moving forward with discovery in the litigation, including review of documents produced by parties and non-parties, and taking depositions.

Date

CASE TIMELINE

Case Update

On March 25, 2022, Judge Franklin Valderrama transferred this case from the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois (in Chicago) to the Western Division of the Northern District of Illinois (in Rockford). As a result, District Judge Iain D. Johnston and Magistrate Judge Lisa A. Jensen will now be presiding over the case in Rockford, Illinois. On April 19, 2022, Magistrate Judge Jensen publicly ordered the parties to exchange letters related to settlement. Plaintiffs have submitted their letter outlining their initial offer of settlement to the City, and now await a response from the City, due May 6, 2022. Judge Jensen has also set a status conference for May 17, 2022, to discuss the parties’ letters and the potential value of a settlement conference. Plaintiffs believe they have made a reasonable and fair settlement proposal, and remain hopeful that a resolution can be reached out-of-court, which would allow the City to preserve funds and resources that would otherwise be spent on litigation to instead be used for improving Sycamore’s water system. We look forward to seeing the City’s response.

Concurrently, the parties are moving forward with discovery in the litigation, including review of documents produced by parties and non-parties, and taking depositions.

Case Update

For much of the past year, the parties have been engaged in the discovery phase, exchanging relevant documents and evidence.

The exchange and review of these documents takes time. Depositions of city employees and other witnesses will account for much of the remaining discovery period. Depositions should begin in the spring.

Regarding the recently announced lead service line replacement program offered by the city, this was not a direct result of anything that happened in the lawsuit. While Hagens Berman still has some questions and concerns, we believe it is a positive development and urge eligible residents to contact the city. If you do not know if you have a lead service line leading into your home, this can be confirmed by a simple scratch test or by a licensed plumber.

Complaint filed

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