Global Warming: After the 1998 tobacco deal, many wondered where the next battleground for the shakedown lawyers would be. Few wonder now. The legal war over climate change is heating up — and it’ll be costly.
The $246 billion tobacco settlement, reached by 46 state attorneys general and the tobacco industry, was not designed to improve public health. It was simply a way to line lawyers’ pockets and create a slush fund for lawmakers.
Private plaintiffs’ lawyers took in $8.2 billion in legal fees, and states have spent their share of the funds on items unconnected to tobacco-related illnesses and anti-smoking education.
It was, as we said a few years ago, “a naked cash grab.”
Having exhausted that lucrative source, trial lawyers went trolling for another. Would it be the fast-food industry? Gun makers? What about companies that sell sugary drinks? Or those making pharmaceuticals?
While those industries will be beset by suing lawyers, they will be spared relative to the target that attracts the most attention. As we predicted on these pages, global warming will be the vehicle for the next litigation lottery. And the media are finally picking up on this.
“Climate-change litigation is fast emerging as a new frontier of law where some believe hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake,” AFP reported Sunday.
Though not yet widespread, climate-related lawsuits have “ballooned” in the last three years, AFP said. Deutsche Bank says filings in the U.S. alone went from 48 in 2009 to 132 last year. “Entrepreneurial lawyers” are stalking prospective defendants, while businesses and insurers are trying to find ways to protect themselves.