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Hawaii Climate Cases Can Proceed in State Court, Ninth Circuit Rules in 5th Straight Defeat for Big Oil

Decision Marks the Fifth Straight Circuit Court Loss for Fossil Fuel Companies After the U.S. Supreme Court Ordered Expanded Review of Arguments for Federal Jurisdiction in Climate Accountability Lawsuits
HAWAII -

In the latest victory for communities seeking to hold major oil and gas corporations accountable for the costs of climate damages they knowingly caused, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today ruled that a pair of lawsuits from Honolulu and Maui can proceed in state court, where they were originally filed.

Honolulu's lawsuit won a major state court victory in March that has set that community on a path to become the first in the country to put oil majors on trial in state court for climate damages.

Today's decision marks the second such ruling from the Ninth Circuit this year, and the fifth overall appellate court ruling to reject an expanded list of arguments from the oil industry to move climate liability lawsuits filed in state court to federal court following a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In April, a separate Ninth Circuit panel ruled that climate damages lawsuits from six California cities and counties could proceed in state court.

In response, Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, released the following statement:

"Once again Big Oil companies tried to escape accountability, and once again they failed. The people of Honolulu and Maui are paying the price for Big Oil's climate deception. It's time for them to have their day in state court to make these corporations pay their fair share of the damages they caused."

Background:

Earlier this year, the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Fourth Circuit, Ninth Circuit, and First Circuit issued similar rulings in climate accountability lawsuits brought by communities in Colorado, Maryland, and California, and the State of Rhode Island, respectively.

Three other federal circuit courts across the country are considering similar arguments from Exxon and other oil and gas companies, which have repeatedly lost efforts to move climate accountability lawsuits out of state court.

At least ten federal district courts have similarly ruled that climate accountability lawsuits filed in state court belong in state court — leaving the fossil fuel industry with "a batting average of .000," in the words of one judge.

Since 2017, the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, as well as 20 city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Washington, have filed lawsuits to hold major oil and gas companies accountable for deceiving the public about their products' role in climate change.

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The Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) helps cities and states across the country hold corporate polluters accountable for the massive impacts of climate change.

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