Litigation Update – Fifth and Second Circuits Reverse Dismissal of Private Party Climate Change Lawsuits

Environmental Litigation

Twice in recent months, federal appeals courts have opened the door to climate change damage claims by private parties against companies that contribute to global warming.

On October 16, 2009, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Comer, et al. v. Murphy Oil USA, et al. held that residents and owners of lands and property along Mississippi Gulf Coast could assert damage claims from Hurricane Katrina against various oil, energy and chemical companies. The plaintiffs alleged the defendants’ operations caused the emission of greenhouse gases that contributed to global warming causing a rise in sea levels and added to the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina, which combined to destroy the plaintiffs’ property. The plaintiffs seek to recover damages based on claims for public and private nuisance, trespass and negligence. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the action, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert their claims and that their claims presented non-justiciable political questions. The appellate court reversed the trial court, which threw out plaintiffs’’ claims and upheld their right to proceed with their claims.
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Greenberg Glusker’s Robert Chapman Secures $105M Damage Award in Exxon Groundwater Contamination Trial

Environmental Litigation

Acclaimed Veteran Litigator Obtains Victory in Major Public Water Supply Environmental Claim

Greenberg Glusker announced that Firm Partner Robert S. Chapman served as one of two lead trial counsel on the New York City trial team that obtained a $104.7 million compensatory damage award against Exxon Mobil Corporation. The federal jury found the oil company responsible for poisoning the City’s groundwater and drinking water supply with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).

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