California is widely regarded as a leader in environmental sustainability, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to toxic hazards that can harm human health. These toxic threats may be the subject of litigation in the form of public nuisance lawsuits, which personal injury lawyers near Riverside may handle. There are a few interesting trends in public nuisance lawsuits in California, including litigation pending against oil companies regarding climate change.
Public Nuisance Lawsuits
The legal definition of a nuisance is quite broad, which makes it a catch-all of sorts for difficult-to-classify litigation. Any physical condition or human activity can be a nuisance if it:
- Causes harm to another person
- Reduces a person’s enjoyment and reasonable use of property
- Is offensive or indecent to the senses
A personal injury lawyer can file a private nuisance lawsuit on behalf of one neighbor and against another neighbor. In contrast, a public nuisance lawsuit is filed over a problem that affects an entire community or a large number of people.
Climate Change Lawsuits
According to the Carbon Majors Database , 7.4% of all global greenhouse emissions released between 1988 and 2015 were caused by five oil companies: Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP. And on September 19, 2017, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland filed separate public nuisance lawsuits against these five companies. They allege that the defendants knew the greenhouse emissions they caused to be released would worsen climate change. They further allege that the defendants knew worsening climate change directly contributed to rising sea levels in coastal cities. Damages are demanded to fund adaptations of these cities to the rising sea level.
Chemical Contamination Lawsuits
While climate change lawsuits are a relatively new trend, plaintiffs have been filing toxic tort lawsuits against pesticide manufacturers for years. Usually, these lawsuits are individual or class action lawsuits. Recently, personal injury lawyers have used public nuisance lawsuits that allow California cities to sue for chemical contamination. A few cities, including San Diego, have sued Monsanto to demand that the former PCB manufacturer pay for the cleanup of waterways polluted by PCBs.