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Baltimore asks federal judge to remand climate lawsuit to state court

Heather Cobun//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//September 12, 2018

Baltimore asks federal judge to remand climate lawsuit to state court

By Heather Cobun

//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

//September 12, 2018

Baltimore’s climate change lawsuit “creates no basis for federal jurisdiction” and should be remanded to state court where it originated, the lawyers for the city argued in a motion filed Tuesday.

The city’s lawsuit alleging fossil fuel companies concealed dangers and engaged in campaigns to misinform the public of the dangers of their products is one of several around the country removed to federal court by one or several defendants.

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis called Chevron Corp.’s removal of the Baltimore lawsuit “as expected” last month but has said since the case was filed that he believes it belongs in front of Baltimore judges.

Federal judges in California and New York have sided with defendants and ruled federal common law controlled the cases, which involve interstate and international environmental concerns, and kept them in federal court. Those judges went on to dismiss the lawsuits.

One federal judge in California sided with the plaintiffs, however, and remanded a group of cases. That decision is on appeal.

In the motion to remand Baltimore’s case, the city argues the defendants rely on the fact the “alleged injuries are part of a large, complex, nationwide problem” to justify prohibiting a state court from hearing the case, but that alone does not create federal jurisdiction.

The defendants repeatedly claim the case is “governed by” federal law, but the city counters the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held even if a state law cause of action is governed by federal law, that does not mean it arises under federal law for removal purposes.

“Defendants would at best have a preemption defense to City’s claims in state court on remand — and not a basis for removal jurisdiction,” the motion state.

No appellate ruling requires climate change torts to be pleaded under federal common law, and the city’s claims are distinct from federal common law, the motion states, including allegations of tortious promotion and marketing of dangerous products.

“None of the City’s claims depends on federal law to create the right to relief, none incorporates a federal tort duty that Defendants allegedly violated, and none turns on the application or interpretation of federal law in any way,” the motion states.

The lawsuit seeks damages for public nuisance, products liability, trespass and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. It names 26 oil and gas defendants, alleging they “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.”

No hearings have been scheduled in the case as of Wednesday.

The case is Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C. et al., 1:18-cv-02357.


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