For decades, the tobacco industry sold cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to the public, knowing that their products caused lung cancer, mouth cancer, and other respiratory disease. Yet, they publicly claimed that their products caused no harm to human health.

Individual plaintiffs tried, and tried again to hold “big tobacco” accountable in Court for their injuries. But juries across the Country sided with the tobacco industry because no one was forcing the Plaintiffs to use the products.

Eventually, State Attorney Generals tried a different route. They brought claims against the tobacco industry on behalf of individual tax payers (not necessarily smokers) claiming that the rates of medicaid and health insurance was going up, because hospitals were being overwhelmed with people injured from smoking and chewing.  The Attorney Generals claimed that the lies that the tobacco industry was selling was directly responsible for an increase in insurance rates.

This theory stuck, and the landscape changed.  The tobacco industry still exists, and many tobacco companies are profitable.  But gone are the days where they can lie to the public.  Their products are now labeled with health warnings, and they are not allowed to advertise to kids.  Additionally, age limits on smoking were implemented, and the tobacco industry had to pay a fortune to compensate the families who got sick or died due to their tobacco related injuries.

A similar approach may appear when it comes to holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in climate change.  State Attorney Generals, like those who litigated with the tobacco industry, are seeking to bring the fossil fuel industry into Court rooms across America to let American juries hear the facts.  Yet, until very recently, the fossil fuel industry was successfully stalling and delaying.

That seems to be coming to an end, because the U.S. Supreme Court recently held that these state law claims against the fossil fuel industry may move forward to state Courts across the Country.  These claims hold the promise to be blockbuster battles with huge implications across the planet. Stay tuned for more.