Description: Lawsuit brought by municipalities in Puerto Rico seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for losses resulting from storms during the 2017 hurricane season and ongoing economic losses since 2017.
Municipalities of Puerto Rico v. Exxon Mobil Corp.
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 11/22/2022 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Puerto Rico Municipalities Filed Federal Suit Seeking Climate Change Damages from Fossil Fuel Companies. Sixteen Puerto Rico municipalities filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the District of Puerto Rico seeking to hold coal, oil, and gas companies liable for losses resulting from storms during the 2017 hurricane season and ongoing economic losses since that time. The municipalities brought the action on their own behalf as well as on behalf of a proposed class of all of Puerto Rico’s municipalities. The municipalities alleged that the defendants were responsible for 40.01% of all global industrial greenhouse gas emissions from 1965 to 2017, and that these collective emissions were a “substantial factor in the increase in intensity of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.” The municipalities alleged that Puerto Rico “suffered apocalyptic damage” from two of those storms—Hurricanes Irma and Maria—which they alleged were intensified by climate change, “as accelerated by Defendants’ consumer products and conduct.” The plaintiffs contended that the defendants were liable because “they knowingly caused and contributed to the worsening of the climate change by producing, promoting, refining, marketing, and selling fossil fuel products … that have caused and continue to cause the devastating effects of climate change, while concealing and misrepresenting the dangers associated with the use of fossil fuel-based products, including the increased frequency of more dangerous storms.” The complaint alleged a “corporate worldwide strategy” to hide information linking the defendants’ products to acceleration of climate change and to an increased likelihood “that Puerto Rico and thus the Plaintiff Municipalities would be ravaged by dangerous, deadly storms.” In addition to more intense storms, the municipalities alleged other physical climate change impacts, including coral reef degradation and “an unprecedented, massive bloom of sargassum,” as well as social, educational, and economic losses, including increased immigration from the municipalities and damages to the agricultural industry. The municipalities asked that the defendants pay costs the plaintiffs had incurred and would continue to incur due to climate change. They also sought punitive damages, disgorgement of profits, pre-judgment interest, attorneys’ and expert witness fees and other costs, and other equitable, declaratory and/or injunctive relief “to assure … an effective remedy.” They asserted 14 causes of action under federal and Puerto Rico law: claims of common law consumer fraud and conspiracy to commit common law consumer fraud and deceptive business practices, claims under Puerto Rico’s statute prohibiting false or misleading advertisements and practices, claims under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), federal antitrust claims, claims under Puerto Rico’s nuisance statute, strict liability claims based on failure to warn and design defect, a negligent design defect claim, and a cause of action for unjust enrichment/restitution.