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Perhaps 10 years ago or so we started hearing about climate change cases being filed all over the U.S. International law firms were involved in these cases. These lawyers lectured more lawyers on the ins and outs of these cases. They did everything to make this real, except win. Most of these cases were not successful at that early date.
But times are changing and so is the climate. It is well settled that climate change is real. And we are all paying a steep price. Flooding and chaotic weather is the rule, not the rare exception. Local communities all over are flooding. Some, like Miami are literally elevating themselves to brace for what is sure to come. Others, not so much. Yet.
Hoboken, tired of the extraordinary expenses that it keeps incurring – largely but not entirely starting with devastation from Sandy, decided to do something about it. It filed a state law based claim in state court against the big oil companies under the theory, not really all that questionable, that fossil fuels are much to blame. And these big oil companies have sold fossil fuels for decades.
The big oil defendants did what large companies always try to do –they tried to move the case from state court to federal court. They raised the meekest of arguments: essentially that this is a world wide big issue and therefore must be heard in federal court. Unfortunately for them, there exists no rule, law, or binding case that holds that just because a case has global implications it can be moved to federal court.
Not at all surprisingly, the federal trial court ruled that the case cannot remain in federal court. And just recently, the appeals court agreed. The Hoboken climate case was brought in state court under state common law. There are no federal claims. It therefore must remain in state court.
Now, more municipalities and local governments need to file suit. These major oil companies have caused much – not all but much – of the problem. Local governments are now paying millions because of climate change. Just as major lead litigation was filed by the State against the large paint manufacturing companies years ago, it is now time for local governments to file these lawsuit against big oil.
Big oil made plenty, and there is nothing wrong with that. But their products caused harm and now they need to be held responsible.
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