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Oil Majors Lose Bid to Move Climate Lawsuits Out of State Courts

Aug. 17, 2022, 2:37 PM

Oil companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., and BP PLC lost their appeal to move two East Coast climate liability lawsuits to federal court.

Judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Wednesday tossed consolidated energy company bids to remove climate lawsuits from Delaware and Hoboken, N.J., to federal courts, where the companies claim judges are better equipped to handle major issues like global warming.

The panel was not convinced that oil companies should be able to move the cases from state courts when they are based on state laws. There is also no “federal hook” that disqualifies the complaints from being heard at a local bench, the judges said.

“Our federal system trusts state courts to hear most cases—even big, important ones that raise federal defenses,” Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote in the opinion. “Plaintiffs choose which claims to file, in which court, and under which law.”

Hoboken and Delaware are among a slew of US cities, states, and counties suing energy giants for allegedly misleading consumers about the damaging climate effects of fossil fuels.

Companies want the cases dismissed under federal laws and have tried for years to remove the lawsuits from local courts. Judges across the country have largely upheld that the cases should stay in the state courts where they were filed.

Judges Theodore A. McKee and L. Felipe Restrepo also sat on the panel.

David C. Frederick, a partner at Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick PLLC, argued the case for the industry appellants. Vic Sher of Sher Edling LLP argued for Delaware and Matthew D. Brinckerhoff of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP argued on behalf of Hoboken.

The cases are Delaware v. BP America Inc, 3d Cir., No. 22-01096, Decision 8/17/22 and Hoboken v. Chevron Corp, 3d Cir., No. 21-02728, Decision 8/17/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Hijazi in Washington at jhijazi@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com; Patrick Ambrosio at PAmbrosio@bloombergindustry.com