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ICYMI: Providence Journal Op-ed: Legal Expert Victor Schwartz Calls Climate Lawsuits “the Real Nuisance”

Today, the distinguished tort law expert Victor Schwartz provided a review in Rhode Island’s Providence Journal addressing how climate change lawsuits are themselves a meritless nuisance for our judicial system and democracy:

“The bottom line is that climate-change cases have themselves become a public nuisance. They are essentially baseless attempts by public officials to extract funds from energy providers to invest in infrastructure and other pet projects, while providing the governments with a basis to say that they are working hard to combat climate change.”

Shortly after California federal Judge William Alsup dismissed the San Francisco and Oakland lawsuits, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin filed the first state public nuisance lawsuit alleging that manufacturers caused storms that damaged Rhode Island’s coastline. With more than fifty years of experience in torts litigation and practice, Schwartz discredited this theory:

Climate-change lawsuits are out of step with basic liability law generally and the tort of public nuisance specifically… The energy producers named in climate-change cases have no ‘control’ over climate change, and the governments bringing these suits cannot show that any specific company’s emissions caused an adverse weather event, given that the emissions mix with CO2 emitted worldwide.”

In quoting former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Schwartz noted that this type of judicial exercise is “regulation through litigation,” motivated by political distaste for current policy in the Legislative and the Executive Branch. The truth, he wrote, is fairly simple:

“The reality is that this litigation wastes time and taxpayer dollars on claims with no basis in the law, which serves only to harm businesses and undermine our representative democracy.”

A renowned legal scholar, Mr. Schwartz is the co-author of the best-selling torts casebook in the country, Prosser, Wade & Schwartz’s Torts (13th ed. 2015).

The MAP is committed to exposing the true nature of these lawsuits as Professor Schwartz did so well in his analysis. In standing up for manufacturers, the MAP has recently issued reform principles to end these lawsuits, hosted roundtables with state attorneys general and local leaders and continues to track these cases in court.