By Brent Kendall 

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court handed the city of Baltimore a preliminary setback in its bid to sue more than 20 multinational oil-and-gas companies on allegations they contributed to climate change and misled the public.

Baltimore filed the 2018 lawsuit in Maryland state court, alleging energy companies failed to warn the public about the dangers of their products. The city says it has suffered climate-change-related injuries, including from rising sea levels and extreme weather, and seeks to recover monetary damages. Other state and local governments have filed similar lawsuits.

The defendants fighting such claims include BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC. They sought to move Baltimore's case to federal court, which they argued is a more appropriate venue with fairer procedural protections. The companies said the case belonged in the federal system because some of their oil-and-gas exploration efforts have come at the behest of the federal government.

A federal trial judge denied the request in 2019 and last year a federal appeals court said it was largely powerless to consider moving the case out of the state system.

The high court, in a 7-1 opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch, on Monday said that decision was incorrect. In a highly technical ruling, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a federal appeals court for further proceedings. The justices said nothing about the substance of the case.

Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented. Justice Samuel Alito didn't participate in the case. His public financial disclosures indicate that he has investment holdings in the energy sector that would prohibit him from considering the lawsuit.

Write to Brent Kendall at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 17, 2021 13:31 ET (17:31 GMT)

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