Lawyers suing oil and natural gas companies over climate change are closely following a seemingly unrelated ruling—one holding a drugmaker responsible feeding into the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma, The Washington Post reports.
Both the cases against pharmaceutical companies and those against fossil-fuel firms are founded on the same legal theory—that the companies’ sale of allegedly harmful products is creating a crisis for which they are financially responsible.
An Oklahoma state judge’s landmark decision last week against Johnson & Johnson was the first ruling that holds a drugmaker responsible for the nationwide flood of addictive opioids.
Oklahoma’s attorney general argued the drug company had created a “public nuisance” by pumping the market with painkillers, an argument typically reserved for neighborhood disputes.
Using the same logic, a number of state, county and city governments across the country are bringing lawsuits against ExxonMobil, Chevron, Dutch Royal Shell and BP, stating that the carbon dioxide their products put into the atmosphere has created a public nuisance through their contribution to climate change. But it remains unclear whether the wave of litigation will succeed or fail. Read the full story.