Remember old Ned Comer? Old Ned was a good old boy who got walloped by Hurricane Katrina.
Yes, sir, it rained on old Ned and he did get wet. He took his drenching like a cat; which is to say, badly.
He figured that because Katrina had caused him harm, it had to be someone’s fault. Accidents just don’t happen: they are planned, deliberate actions by nefarious beings. This is, is it not?, the prevailing belief of our age.
Old Ned sued: he found a lawyer to help him discover whose fault Katrina was. They had two rules which governed their search for a culprit:
- The person or business responsible had to appear plausible,
- This person or business had to have a lot of money.
They chose Murphy Oil as their main target, but they tacked on a few other energy companies on the theory that since they were already handing in the paperwork, it would be a shame to limit the potential cash payout.
The suit made its way up through the judicial hierarchy, sometimes rising, sometimes falling. Alas, the suit was at last dismissed based on a legal formula more complicated than any devised by an alchemist. The complete story is covered by SPPI.
Importantly for lawyers, the suit was not dismissed in the sense that future suits based on the same reasoning that old Ned used will be disallowed. Stated more plainly, there are still opportunities for attorneys to cash in on this new field of suing.
According to SPPI, the theory guiding these suits is simple for any Mississippi jury to follow. All you have to do is claim what old Ned did: A (rich) company “(a) generated greenhouse gases (b) which caused global warming, (c) which increased global surface air and water temperatures, (d) which in turn caused a rise in sea levels and strengthened Hurricane Katrina, and (e) which all then combined to damage their homes and property.”
So much you already knew. But I promised a new way to sue, and so here it is.
The key in my innovative theory comes in understanding two points: (1) you must demonstrate, by a short a causal chain as possible, the tie between any piece of weather and any adverse event your client claims to have suffered; and (2) that the causal chain need not be limited to greenhouse gas creation.
Incidentally, I emphasize weather and not climate, because nobody or nothing experiences climate. People and things instead experience a succession of weather. This is important to understand because you would not want to limit yourself to suits only involving climate. Stated more plainly: there are more chances to sue over weather.
In 1963, Ed Lorenz gave us his “Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow”, a paper in which he introduced chaos to the meteorological community. Have you heard of it? Chaos, I mean; not the paper (which is lovely).
Lorenz’s paper entered the folkways with the idea that a butterfly could flap its wings in Cleveland and a week later a rainstorm would fall on a farmer’s crop in South Carolina. The idea is that small perturbations to the weather/climate system can grow into large, possibly devastatingly suable effects.
Perhaps you don’t see the magic of this method, its stunning generality and lucrative nature. Here is an example of how to implement it.
Bill Gates drives his car to the grocery store, an activity which agitates, mixes, and messes with the air, such that the turbulence surrounding his jalopy eventually makes its way to the jet stream, pushing it slightly off course, and thus directing a storm that would have hit an unpopulated area smack into your client’s backyard.
Not only is Gates, a very rich man, responsible for any ensuing property damage, but we also have to consider the emotional distress caused his hedonistic driving. Certainly millions worth of distress points!
Well, you get the idea. The only difficulty I foresee is that this stratagem will become so successful, that you’ll soon run out of moneyed victims. All of what’s left of value will be left only in lawyers’ hands. What to do then?
Sue each other! And do it before the other guy sues you. Sure, there are unstated rules about this kind of thing. But are you going to let mere etiquette stand in your way when to not sue means you will be responsible for destroying the planet? To ask this question is to answer it.
By the way, I expect a healthy cut from any and all successful lawsuits. And I prefer cash, not checks.