Firm Behind King County’s Climate Lawsuit Makes An Astonishing Admission In Court

Chris White | Energy Reporter

One of the hard charging law firms targeting Chevron and BP with climate litigation claimed in court documents Thursday that moving forward on its own lawsuit would be a waste of time and resources.

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro alleged in May that Chevron’s oil production poses an “imminent” threat to the safety of its citizens. Attorneys with the firm are now pushing to have the case stayed due to appeals in similar cases in San Francisco and Oakland – they are now calling the suit a waste.

“The waste involved in charging ahead now is undeniable and compelling,” Hagens-Berman wrote in their reply to Chevron’s request to avoid a stay. The firm also claimed company officials are charging ahead because they want a win before the matter gets brought up on appeals.

“The plain truth is that litigating the case is as wasteful now as it would be later,” Hagens-Berman added before reiterating that Chevron and BP’s products are “killing people and causing massive damage.” The oil companies meanwhile say they are ready and raring to go forward.

“King County has waited too long to seek a stay,” Chevron noted in a Sept. 15 court document, effectively asking the county to continue with its suit. “If it thought a stay was appropriate then it should have sought one soon after Judge Alsup dismissed the Oakland and San Francisco cases.” (RELATED: Chevron Is Not Letting King County Delay Its Beleaguered Climate Crusade)

Chevron was referring to U.S. District Judge William Alsup’s decision in June that climate change was best tackled through the legislature and not the courts. The suit sought to create an abatement fund addressing changes to infrastructure, like bridge maintenance, salmon recovery and public health.

Hagens Berman is also behind Oakland and San Francisco’s litigation, which is currently in the appeal process following Alsup’s decision. The law firm stood to rake in billions of dollars in contingency fees depending on the total winnings from a favorable judgement against oil companies.

Cities and trial lawyers argue the alleged effects of global warming, including sea level rise and extreme weather, violate public nuisance laws. Cities want oil companies to pay for past damages and future mitigation projects.

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