SW Legal studies in Business

Hurricane Katrina Victims May Sue Oil Companies for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Appeals court held that those who suffered property losses due to Hurricane Katrina have the right to sue oil, energy, and chemical companies for nuisance and other tort claims for greenhouse gas emissions that are alleged to cause global warming and, thereby, the hurricane.

Topic Environmental Law
Key Words

Nuisance, Trespass, Negligence, Unjust Enrichment, Greenhouse Gases; Global Warming

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Plaintiffs, residents and owners of lands and property along the Mississippi Gulf costs, sued in a class action suit against all major energy and chemical companies. Plaintiffs claim that defendants operation of energy, fossil fuels, and chemical industries caused the emission of greenhouse gases that contributed to global warming, which changed weather patterns and caused Hurricane Katrina to be stronger than it would have been otherwise, thereby causing large loss of property. On theories of nuisance, trespass, and negligence, the plaintiffs contend that the firms injured them and have been enriched in the process of emitting greenhouse gases, so they demand compensatory and punitive damages. The district court dismissed the suit. Plaintiffs appealed.


Reversed and remanded. The property owners have standing under state and federal law to bring nuisance, trespass, and negligence claims against the firms. They contend they can trace the link between the emissions from the firms and global warming and changes in the weather. They do not have standing to sue for unjust enrichment. They claim the prices of their products were artificially high and the firms earned larger profits than should have been the case. There is no link between that alleged action and the losses claimed here.

Citation Comer v. Murphy Oil, ---F.3d--- (2009 WL 3321493, 5th Cir., 2009)

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