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High Courts Hear Arguments in Precedent-Setting Climate Change Cases

April 20, 2011

On Tuesday, April 19, 2011, oral arguments were held in two significant cases addressing global warming issues.  The United States Supreme Court held the oral argument in Connecticut v. Am. Elec. Power Co., Inc., 406 F. Supp. 2d 265 (S.D.N.Y. 2005), rev'd, 582 F.3d 309 (2d Cir. 2009), cert. granted, No. 10-174 (U.S. Dec. 6, 2010), addressing the viability of plaintiffs' tort claims seeking relief for global warming activities. On the same day, the Supreme Court of Virginia heard from policyholder and insurer counsel in The AES Corporation v. Steadfast Insurance Company, Record No. 100764 (Va.), the first state high court to address whether a policyholder targeted in a global warming complaint is entitled to a defense under general liability policies.  These cases will significantly impact the future of climate change litigation for companies such as those in the electric utility, oil and natural gas, chemical and automobile industries, as well as the exposure of insurers to coverage claims for climate change suits that may remain viable. In this issue of Coverage Insights, Wiley Rein LLP reports on these two important oral arguments held earlier this week.