Compliance » Climate, Other Liability Claims, Hinge on Upcoming High Court Decision

Climate, Other Liability Claims, Hinge on Upcoming High Court Decision


November 2, 2020

The viability of scores of climate liability cases plus untold numbers of other kinds of liability cases, seemingly hinge on the eventual ruling in a petition to the Supreme Court from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP plus other fossil fuel companies to review Baltimore’s climate liability suit on the question of jurisdiction. The case is Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C., et al. The 4th Circuit’s decision to remand it to the Maryland state courts will be under review. The delay alone is a boon to oil companies who have been filing appeal after appeal in a frantic effort to keep this and similar suits from proceeding in state courts. Federal courts have a history of kicking the can over to the legislative and executive branches in climate-related lawsuits. Although the high court will not address the merits of the case—whether the fossil fuel companies should pay for the damages caused by climate change — the decision could have major implications for nearly all such cases filed since 2017. In Baltimore’s case, the U.S. District Court rejected all of the companies’ arguments and the Fourth Circuit affirmed, but said it was only allowed to review the federal removal argument, which it rejected. The question before the Supreme Court is whether the appellate court was correct to consider only that argument, or to review all the companies’ claims.

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