Trial Lawyers Are Behind Rhode Island’s Global Warming Lawsuit Against Big Oil


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Rhode Island’s global warming lawsuit against 21 oil companies is being coordinated with trial lawyers who stand to make millions, if not billions, of dollars on similar lawsuits across the country.

The plaintiffs firm Sher Edling LLP is handling six other lawsuits filed by California cities and counties against oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP. Sher Edling handles these cases in exchange for a percentage of any court winnings, called a contingency fee.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin announced legal action against oil companies on Monday, alleging the defendants knew “for nearly 50 years that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products has a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels.”

However, Kilmartin’s press release does not mention the fact coordinating with trial lawyers to pursue legal action over global warming. Kilmartin announced the climate lawsuit at an event with Rhode Island politicians, including Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.

Kilmartin, a Democrat, did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation when asked about contingency fees Sher Edling could reap if the court rules in the state’s favor.

Kilmartin joined a group of state attorneys general, led by former New York AG Eric Schneiderman, dedicated to enforcing the goals of the Paris climate accord, which the Trump administration plans to withdraw from in two years.

Rhode Island will become the first state to sue oil companies for the alleged damages caused by global warming, but they are only the latest state officials to turn to trial lawyers. (RELATED: Does Air Pollution Cause Diabetes? That’s The Absurd Question American Tax Dollars Paid To Answer)

Sher Edling is handling climate lawsuits for California local governments against oil companies, arguing, as with Rhode Island, the damage allegedly caused by global warming violates state nuisance laws.

Kilmartin’s complaint further alleges oil companies “concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever greater volumes.”

The suits mimic tactics used against the tobacco industry, which is exactly what Democratic politicians have been advocating for. Whitehouse, for example, has called on the Justice Department to launch anti-racketeering investigations into fossil fuel companies.

“The Ocean State has so much at stake in the fight against climate change,” Whitehouse said in a joint statement with Kilmartin.

“I commend Attorney General Kilmartin for his leadership in holding some of the world’s most powerful corporations responsible for the damage they’re inflicting on our coastal economy, infrastructure, and way of life,” he added.

However, a federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by San Francisco and Oakland against five major oil companies, also including Exxon, Chevron and BP.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, a Clinton appointee, dismissed the lawsuits in late June, ruling the “scope of plaintiffs’ theory is breathtaking.”

“It would reach the sale of fossil fuels anywhere in the world, including all past and otherwise lawful sales, where the seller knew that the combustion of fossil fuels contributed to the phenomenon of global warming,” Alsup ruled.

Sher Edling did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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