Public Nuisance and Global Warming Litigation

A decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York earlier this week would enable public nuisance claims to proceed against businesses for their contributions to global warming. In Connecticut v. American Electric Power, the 2nd Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, effectively giving the green light to a public nuisance lawsuit filed by eight state attorneys general, New York City and three land trusts against six electric power companies based on greenhouse gas emissions. Public nuisance is a common law tort that imposes liability on an individual or entity that interferes with a public right – to health and safety, for example. The 2nd Circuit decision would effectively reverse the judicial trend on the public nuisance theory.  We recall that in July 2008, the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned a landmark case against three former lead paint manufacturers, refusing to allow the expansion of the public nuisance law to environmental and product liability cases. For more on Monday’s ruling, check out an online article at Business Insurance by Joanne Wojcik. Check out I.I.I. info on climate change and insurance issues.

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