What Do These Climate Change Lawsuits Have In Common? Trial Lawyers

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The city of Baltimore announced Friday it sued more than two dozen oil and gas companies for damages allegedly brought about by man-made global warming.

It’s the 13th such lawsuit to be filed by state and local governments trying to sue fossil fuel companies over global warming. Baltimore, like the others, is trying to apply public nuisance lawsuits to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

But that’s not the only thing these suits have in common. Buried at the bottom of Baltimore’s press release on their new lawsuit is disclosure that the city will be “assisted by outside counsel from Sher Edling LLP.”

Sher Edling is one of several law firms behind the slew of climate lawsuits. Sher Edling is also working with six California cities and counties, as well as the state of Rhode Island, to sue fossil fuel companies over global warming.

While Baltimore’s arrangement with Sher Edling is unknown, the law firm is working with others on a contingency fee basis — meaning they pay the upfront costs in exchange for potential court winnings.

A city spokesman would not divulge if Sher Edling was working on a contingency fee basis, but if they were, the firm stands to make millions, if not billions, of dollars based on the past and future damages Baltimore and other plaintiffs claim are associated with man-made warming.

“These oil and gas companies knew for decades that their products would harm communities like ours, and we’re going to hold them accountable,” Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis said in a statement.

“Baltimore’s residents, workers, and businesses shouldn’t have to pay for the damage knowingly caused by these companies,” Davis said.

Baltimore’s complaint seeks to hold energy companies responsible for “damages associated with sea level rise and changes to the hydrologic cycle that include more frequent and severe heat waves, drought, and extreme precipitation events, all of which are caused by the companies’ products,” according to the release.

However, Baltimore filed its lawsuit the day after a federal judge tossed out a similar climate lawsuit brought by New York City. (RELATED: Judge Tosses Out New York City’s Climate Change Lawsuit)

“Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the two other branches of government,” U.S. District Judge John Keenan wrote in his opinion.

Keenan’s ruling echoes a ruling by a Northern California federal judge in June that struck down nearly identical lawsuits brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland against oil companies.

Those three cities worked with the plaintiffs firms Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP and Seeger Weiss.

Baltimore’s suit is filed in state court where the city, trial lawyers and environmentalists think they will get a better hearing than in federal court. Opponents have called these lawsuits an abuse of the legal system.

“Taxpayer resources should not be used for baseless lawsuits that are designed to enrich trial lawyers and grab headlines for politicians,” Manufacturers’ Accountability Project Executive Director Lindsey de la Torre said in a statement.

“This abuse of our legal system does nothing to advance meaningful solutions, which manufacturers are focused on every day,” she said.

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