Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Virginia ruling aids Alaska climate suit

The Virginia Supreme Court has handed down an unprecedented ruling on companies’ liability for global warming-related damages — a first-in-the-nation decision that could portend massive consequences for energy companies and environmental lawyers.

The ruling stems from an ongoing case in federal court, in which the Alaskan island town of Kivalina accused a handful of mostly U.S. energy companies of contributing to global warming, which it says has rendered the town uninhabitable. One of the energy companies named in the lawsuit, Arlington-based AES Corp., was then sued in Virginia by its insurance carrier, which objected to having to defend the company and possibly pay damages associated with global warming as part of a policy covering accidents.

“In this instance, the allegations of negligence do not support a claim of an accident,” Justice S. Bernard Goodwyn wrote in a 16-page opinion issued on April 20.

Some analysts say the opinion, the first of its kind on the subject, could set policy on an emerging issue of litigation for years to come. More