Marching Toward a Day of Reckoning: Dissecting the Complex Intersection of Insurance Law and Climate Change Litigation Through AES Corp. v. Steadfast Ins. Co.

BY Douglas J. DeBaugh

Recently, the Supreme Court held that the Clean Air Act displaces federal common law public nuisance claims. This ruling struck a significant blow to climate change plaintiffs, as the nuisance doctrine had become critical for parties seeking the abatement of greenhouse gas emissions and damages for harms caused by those emissions. Because the Court has declined to rule on the viability of state law tort claims, some scholars believe an increase in climate change filings at the state level is guaranteed. As litigants continue to sue major carbon emitters for their alleged contribution to global warming, “more companies and professionals will turn to their liability insurers, seeking to be defended in lawsuits and indemnified for resulting settlements and judgments.” For this reason, the future of climate change litigation has enormous implications for the insurance industry. Using a recent Virginia Supreme Court case, this Recent Development presents some of the legal issues associated with what many believe as the next evolutionary step in climate change litigation – determining who is left to bear the brunt of the massive costs associated with climate change harms.


DOWNLOAD PDF | 91 N.C. L. Rev. 95 (2013)