Michigan’s Top Health Official Faces Trial on Involuntary Manslaughter Charges Linked to Flint Water Crisis

Michigan Health Director Nick Lyon will stand trial on charges that he knew of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease near Flint but failed to warn the public. 12 people died. Defense attorneys say experts told Lyon no warning was needed.

The head of Michigan’s Health Department will stand trial on two charges of involuntary manslaughter connected to the water crisis in Flint.

The case involves an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that some experts link to Flint’s tainted water supply.

Jake Neher/WDET

Prosecutors say Michigan Health Director Nick Lyon failed to warn the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Flint area even though he knew it was happening.

They claim that contributed to the deaths of two elderly men from the Flint region.



About 90 people were sickened from Legionnaires in Genesee County. A dozen people died.

There was a spike in the disease during 2014 and 2015, which was also the time when Flint switched its water supply without properly treating pipes for corrosion.

But Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder did not tell the public about a possible outbreak until he held a news conference at the beginning of 2016.

Defense attorneys counter that Lyon relied on experts who never recommended issuing a warning about any outbreak.

In addition, they argue the prosecution has not directly connected the fatalities to Legionnaires’ disease.

If convicted of the involuntary manslaughter charges, Lyon faces a penalty of as many as 30 years in prison.


  • Quinn Klinefelter

    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.