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How a Michigan firm makes money suing municipalities

law firm in Royal Oak, Michigan has made millions of dollars by suing cities and towns, and stands to make millions more in pending cases. How does it do it? By claiming that municipal governments are improperly charging residents for storm water. The Detroit Free Press has more on how the Kickham Hanley law firm is turning storm water into a river of cash. Partner Greg Hanley explained how it works:

"What if you and I are neighbors and you live alone but I have four daughters, which I do," Hanley said. "My house is using a lot more water, but our lawn and our driveway and roof are not necessarily contributing any more storm water to the system," he said. Instead, the storm-water volume depends on how much of a given property doesn't absorb rainfall, what's called the "impervious surface area."

Thus, owners of a tiny house and huge lawn shouldn't pay as much for storm water as folks with the opposite — a large house and tiny yard. The idea is to tailor the fee to exactly how much storm water each property sloshes into the street's sewer grates.

Read more about the lawsuits at

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