By April Rolen-Ogden

In Comer v. Murphy Oil, the Fifth Circuit left open the possibility that the oil and gas industry may be privately sued for alleged contributions to global warming. In this putative class action lawsuit, Plaintiffs claimed that the defendants’ operation of energy, fossil fuels, and chemical industries in the United States contributed to global warming. Plaintiffs further claimed that those contributions caused a rise in sea levels and added to the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed Plaintiffs’ property and some public property. The Fifth Circuit concluded that Plaintiffs had standing for their nuisance, trespass and negligence claims, which were premised on the alleged causal link between global warming and Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of Plaintiffs’ property. The Fifth Circuit also held these claims were justiciable and thus ripe for determination by a court. Based on these findings, the Fifth Circuit reversed the District Court, which had dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims, and remanded for further proceedings.

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