Previously, I wrote about California’s lawsuit against five major oil and gas companies. That blog discussed the alleged facts of the complaint and the underpinnings of the case. Today we’ll look at the legal theories advanced by the California AG and how those fit into the broader tapestry of climate litigation. Reporting from The New York Times discusses the case and related climate litigation legal theories. California is primarily using common law torts and consumer protection laws to bring this lawsuit. They allege that conditions created by the fossil fuels companies constitute a public nuisance. They also argue that ongoing attempts by the companies to subvert the truth about the effects of burning fossil fuels violate consumer protection statutes.
It is interesting to also see the legal theories that California opted not to use. The NYT article states that:
“Two recent lawsuits against big oil companies, one in Puerto Rico and one in Hoboken, N.J., have brought charges under the state and federal versions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. But the California lawsuit does not bring claims under the state’s RICO act.”
Additionally, the lawsuit doesn’t cite a specific weather event, but rather a pattern of changing weather that is damaging the state. This is the same approach used by Puerto Rico and Multnomah County Oregon in their recent suits.
With California’s size and influence, this is set to be the largest climate case against fossil fuels companies to date. Additionally, California is often seen as a leader in litigation. Whatever elements of this case succeed are certainly going to be replicated by smaller states in additional litigation that may develop.
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