A ground-breaking editorial in The Wall Street Journal over the weekend admonished the baseless public nuisance lawsuits that seek to blame manufacturers for the global issue of climate change, while enriching the trial attorneys who bring them.
The editorial highlights that this vein of litigation has historically failed in courts:
“No court has recognized common-law claims for injuries supposedly caused by climate change, and the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in AEP v. Connecticut (2011) that the Clean Air Act pre-empts public nuisance torts against corporations for greenhouse-gas emissions. So the cities are now arguing that the mere production and promotion of fossil fuels create a public nuisance, and the suits are heading to court.”
The editorial notes that at the recent hearing on the motion to dismiss the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuits, federal Judge William Alsup poked holes in the plaintiffs’ legal arguments:
“Judge Alsup also pointed out that the federal government and states have encouraged the production of fossil fuels. “If the nation is saying, ‘please do it,’ how can we hold them liable for that?” he asked… “We won the Second World War with fossil fuels. If we didn’t have fossil fuels, we would have lost that war and every other war,” the judge mused during a recent hearing. “And so we have gotten a huge benefit from the use of fossil fuels, right?” Plaintiff attorney Steve Berman agreed.”
The Wall Street Journal also noted that Hagens Berman is awaiting a big payday at the end of their contract with the plaintiffs:
“Hagens Berman, which has negotiated a 23.5% contingency fee in the San Francisco and Oakland cases, is hoping the oil giants will pay to make the lawsuits go away, which may be tempting as cases pile up.”