Class Action Suit by Insurer’s may Shake up Local Governments in US

May 18, 2014

A question often asked about climate litigation is, when does the steady drip of legal  actions based on climate damages reach the kind of critical mass that tobacco litigation, after 30 or so years of failed attempts, reached in the 90s?

This case is interesting in that, it comes from an insurance company – one of the few sectors of the economy that, like the oil industry, has more money than God.


A major insurance company is accusing dozens of localities in Illinois of failing to prepare for severe rains and flooding in lawsuits that are the first in what could be a wave of litigation over who should be liable for the possible costs of climate change.

Farmers Insurance filed nine class actions last month against nearly 200 communities in the Chicago area. It is arguing that local governments should have known rising global temperatures would lead to heavier rains and did not do enough to fortify their sewers and stormwater drains.

The legal debate may center on whether an uptick in natural disasters is foreseeable or an “act of God.” The cases raise the question of how city governments should manage their budgets before costly emergencies occur.

“We will see more and more cases,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School in New York. “No one is expected to plan for the 500-year storm, but if horrible events are happening with increasing frequency, that may shift the duties.”

Gerrard and other environmental law experts say the suits are the first of their kind.


17 Responses to “Class Action Suit by Insurer’s may Shake up Local Governments in US”

  1. […] Insurance Co. has withdrawn its lawsuit against Chicago for climate-related flooding, marking an abrupt end to a novel legal claim that had tantalized observers with its prospects for […]

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