NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has issued its final ruling in a global warming suit that for numerous years has sought to connect Hurricane Katrina to global warming.
Writing on behalf of a three judge panel, Appeals Court Judge Stephen A. Higginson agreed that the claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata.
The original suit was filed by Mississippi landowners against a number of energy and oil companies following Hurricane Katrina. It alleged a causal relationship between the companies' emissions and the ferocity of the hurricane, which damaged their property. The case was dismissed by a district court and appealed to the 5th Circuit. A panel of appeals judges heard the case and reversed and remanded some of the claims for further proceedings. The landowners petitioned for a rehearing before the full court, hoping for a full reversal.
A majority of the members of the court agreed to hear the case, but a last minute recusal dissolved the court’s quorum. This procedural technicality meant that the district court’s dismissal was reinstated. The plaintiffs eventually re-filed their case, claiming they were denied due process.
The case was again dismissed before the district court and again ended up before a panel of Fifth Circuit Judges.
In its most recent decision, the appeals panel did not discuss any of the district court’s other reasons for dismissal because the district court’s dismissal in the original suit was final and on the merits, but the panel was careful to note that the consequences of res judicata are “not altered by the fact that the judgment may have been wrong.
Oral arguments were heard in New Orleans on May 1 before the panel that also included Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart and Circuit Judge Rhesa H. Barksdale.
Case No. 12-60291 Ned Comer, et al v. Murphy Oil USA Inc., et al.