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Murphy Oil USA lawsuit resurrected by plaintiffs


NEW ORLEANS—A climate change lawsuit thought dead after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of its dismissal on procedural grounds is being resurrected.

In Ned Comer et al. vs. Murphy Oil USA et al., a group of Mississippi property owners alleged that greenhouse gas emissions by Murphy Oil USA—through more than 100 oil, coal and chemical companies—contributed to climate change and exacerbated property damage Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.

The plaintiffs sought damages under Mississippi common law, but a federal judge dismissed the case, saying it posed a political question that could not be decided by the courts.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling in October 2009. The defendants sought an en banc hearing by the full court, which was granted. But when eight of the court's 16 standing judges recused themselves due to conflicts of interest, the court voted 5-3 last summer to dismiss the appeal, letting the district court's dismissal stand.

The plaintiffs appealed that dismissal this month, arguing that the three-judge panel's decision should stand.

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