On February 5, 2020, Altshuler Berzon LLP partner Michael Rubin argued City of Oakland et al. v. BP LLC et al., No. 18-6663, before a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel. The consolidated cases, brought by the City of Oakland and the City and County of San Francisco against five of the largest private investor-owned oil and gas companies in the world, allege that defendants’ 50-year campaign of deceit and deception about the impacts of fossil-fuel combustion on global warming makes those companies liable under California law for their roles in creating the resulting public nuisance. The plaintiffs seek an order of equitable abatement that would require the companies to remediate the devastating impacts of climate change on local public infrastructure.
The district court had dismissed the consolidated cases on the merits, after having denied the cities’ motions to remand the cases to the state courts in which they were originally filed. The district court also dismissed four of the five defendants on personal jurisdiction grounds. As a result, the oral argument encompassed three issues: (1) whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction, under federal common law or otherwise, over the removed cases; (2) whether the cities’ complaints stated a claim for relief under state public nuisance law or federal common law; and (3) whether the district court could exercise personal jurisdiction over the out-of-state defendants based on allegations that they “purposefully directed” their tortious conduct against California.
Altshuler Berzon LLP attorneys Michael Rubin, BJ Chisholm, Corrine Johnson, and Rebecca Lee have been co-counseling these cases and other climate-change cases pending in state and federal courts throughout the country, with city and county attorneys on behalf of their respective jurisdictions and with co-counsel from Sher Edling.