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Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc.

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20067
Nos. 1:11CV220, (S.D. Miss., 03/20/2012) (Guirola Jr., J.)

A district court held that the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel bar individuals' trespass, nuisance, and negligence claims against numerous oil, coal, electric, and chemical companies for damages stemming from Hurricane Katrina. The individuals asserted that the companies' activities are among the largest sources of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, and that global warming led to high sea surface temperatures and sea level rise that fueled Hurricane Katrina, which in turn damaged their property. They also allege that global warming has caused them to incur higher insurance premiums and has lowered the resale value of their homes, and that the defendants' emissions constitute an unreasonable invasion of the plaintiffs' property rights. But because the current lawsuit is nearly identical to the individuals' 2005 lawsuit, the court ruled that it was barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel. Alternatively, the court found that the individuals lack standing to assert their claims because their alleged injuries are not fairly traceable to the companies' conduct. Moreover, the court found that the lawsuit presents a nonjusticiable political question and that all of the individuals' claims are preempted by the CAA. The court further found that the claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and that the individuals cannot possibly demonstrate that their injuries were proximately caused by the companies' conduct.