9th Circuit Fails to Rein In Expansion of Public Nuisance Law

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ATRA states its disappointment in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that certain public nuisance climate lawsuits can proceed in state court.


This week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided that climate lawsuits filed by San Mateo County and the cities of San Francisco and Oakland can proceed in state court. The lawsuits utilize an obscure area of the law called “public nuisance” to place the blame for global climate change on a few energy companies that develop and sell the energy used by consumers and businesses.

We are disappointed in the 9th Circuit’s failure to push back on the expansion of public nuisance law by allowing these cases to move forward in state court, and their failure to recognize climate change as a problem requiring a global solution – not a patchwork of local lawsuits

The ultimate result will be a hodgepodge of lawsuits across the nation that burden our court system, create uncertainty and fail to create any real solution.

This is a matter that should be addressed by Congress and government agencies that have the authority to regulate energy and the environment – not local courts. It is the responsibility of  accountable public officials to protect the public interest and determine appropriate policy solutions to address issues as globally reaching as climate change.
ATRA’s President Tiger Joyce urged the 9th Circuit to curb the expansion of public nuisance law in a May 14 op-ed entitled “Climate Case Is Ninth Circuit’s Golden Opportunity on Nuisance Suits.”

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Climate Case Is Ninth Circuit’s Golden Opportunity on Nuisance Suits

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has an opportunity to redirect policy and push back on activist attorneys’ attempts to improperly expand public nuisance law. With Covid-19 public nuisance lawsuits coming, Tiger Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, discusses the importance of the climate change lawsuit.