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Climate litigation focus of lecture

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Civil Litigation as a Tool for Regulating Climate Change will be the topic of the 25th Annual Monsanto Lecture on Tort Law & Jurisprudence at Valparaiso University School of Law on Feb. 18.

“The conference will explore the interlinked policy, science, legal, and political questions of utilizing the American litigation system, and particularly its tort theories of liability, to regulate climate change,” according to a statement on the school’s website.

There are three major federal cases that have been filed seeking damages due to companies alleged to have caused global warming.

The United States District Court, Southern District of New York judge who handled Connecticut v. American Electric Power, Co., a public nuisance lawsuit filed by eight state attorneys general, the city of New York, and three land trusts against six electric power companies, granted summary judgment to defendants in that case. That decision was reversed by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of the United States agreed Dec. 6 to hear this case in the spring.

Two other cases could be affected by the Connecticut case.

In Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, property owners filed a lawsuit in Mississippi against Murphy Oil USA, claiming its contribution to climate change contributed to the intensity of Hurricane Katrina. The District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and the 5th Circuit initially reversed. However, the full 5th Circuit agreed to hear the matter en banc but has had difficulty getting a quorum. Meanwhile, plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to order the 5th Circuit to reinstate the case.

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation involved residents of an Inupiat Eskimo village in Alaska who must relocate due to global warming at a cost of $95 to $400 million. That case was dismissed by the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California and is awaiting a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The issues in these cases and other global warming concerns in litigation will be discussed by professor Daniel Farber, director of the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the University of California at Berkeley; professor Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University School of Law; professor Daniel Bodansky of the School of Sustainability and School of Law at Arizona State University; and Brent Newell, general counsel of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment in San Francisco.

The conference is $100 for practicing attorneys and professionals, $50 for employees of non-profit organizations, and there is no charge for students.

To register, contact Jo Ann Campbell at (219) 465-7829 or (888) 825-7652; fax: (219) 465-7808; or e-mail: litigation.conference@valpolaw.net.•

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