Baltimore Climate Change Liability Case Returns to 4th Circuit

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that a Baltimore City lawsuit targeting the oil and gas industry should return to federal court.

In 2018, Baltimore City filed a lawsuit against several oil and gas companies alleging that they concealed the environmental impacts of their products. The City seeks damages to help cover costs associated with climate change adaption.

The Supreme Court agreed to address a question of process – whether the case should remain in federal court, or return to state court. The defendants scored a small victory yesterday when the court ruled that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals did indeed have the proper jurisdiction to hear the broader scope of the case.

From coverage in The Hill:

Monday’s decision did not delve into those issues, as the court instead looked at whether the case should be heard in federal or state court.

The defendants sought to move the lawsuit from Maryland state court to federal court, a move that has been referred to as “forum shopping.”

Critics argue that corporate clients often do this, thinking they’ll have a better chance at winning in federal court

From the majority opinion:

The Fourth Circuit erred in holding that it was powerless to consider all of the defendants’ grounds for removal under §1447(d). In light of that error, the defendants ask us to consider some of those additional grounds ourselves. That task, however, does not implicate the circuit split that we took this case to resolve and we believe the wiser course is to leave these matters for the Fourth Circuit to resolve in the first instance

The case will return to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for further consideration, where the City will have an opportunity to argue the case on its merits.

For more information view the opinion, and coverage in The Hill.

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