Comer Litigation, a Perfect Storm of Fantasy Fulfillment

Quin Hillyer of The Washington Times comments on the should-be-higher profile case of Comer v. Murphy Oil U.S.A., in a column, “No butterfly caused Katrina“:

A case called Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, winding its way through federal courts, offers leftists a perfect storm of fantasy fulfillment. Yet their fantasy balloons may well get popped. If the case is decided correctly, it could strike separate blows against both lawsuit abuse and global-warming alarmists, including those at the radicalized Environmental Protection Agency. …

This is the class-action lawsuit in which Mississippi residents sued  150 energy companies, chemical manufacturers and other emitters of greenhouse gases, claiming the emissions increased global warming, which made Hurricane Katrina so much more powerful and damaging to property. Compensate us!

Hillyer writes:

Remember the theory of the “butterfly effect,” whereby the flap of an insect’s wings in Brazil somehow could cause a tornado in Texas? In essence, the Comer theory amounts to sort of a butterfly effect writ extra-large. The problem with the butterfly effect is that a gazillion other creatures are flapping their wings all over the world, so it is literally impossible ever to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between airflows in Brazil and Texas or between Bolivia and Tennessee.

The trial judge, U.S. District Judge Louis Girola, Jr., dismissed the lawsuit because it sought to use the courts to balance complicated economic, environmental and international interests. These interests are constitutionally the domain of the political branches of government, not the courts. Unfortunately, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed, allowing the case to proceed. Now the full court will now consider the litigation en banc. Hillyer:

Remember, this first fight involves mere standing to sue, not the merits of the global-warming, butterfly-effect claims. But if it proceeds to trial, literally every one of us who uses energy could be legally liable for some degree of Katrina’s devastation. Energy-company shareholders, including retirees whose pension funds rely on stock in those companies, would see their savings diminished, while consumers surely would pay vastly higher prices if the millions of people who suffered damages in Katrina could lay claims for damages.

Hillyer cites an amicus brief filed in the litigation by the American Farm Bureau Federation, joined by the National Association of Manufacturers, the the American Tort Reform Association. The brief and case summary is available at the NAM’s Manufacturing Law Center’s entry on Comerhere.

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