Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Oil Companies Responsible for Their Part in Deadly Oregon Heat Event

Lawsuit Seeks to Hold Oil Companies Responsible for Their Part in Deadly Oregon Heat Event


Attorney Jeffrey Simon: Profitable business practices ‘environmentally unsustainable’ 

DALLAS – Asserting that the companies deceived the public about environmental dangers, Simon Greenstone Panatier, PC has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Multnomah County, Oregon, against more than a dozen fossil fuel producers for negligently and fraudulently selling climate-warming products.  

“These companies have advanced a business agenda for decades that has been highly profitable for them but is unsustainable from an environmental standpoint,” said Jeffrey Simon, co-founder of Simon Greenstone Panatier. “Oregon state tort law is very explicit about what constitutes negligence, fraud and public nuisance. We contend that these companies took actions and engaged in deception regarding the impact of these companies that are virtual textbook examples.”  

Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county, sits along the south banks of the Columbia River, encompassing most of the city of Portland on the west, with a heavily timbered eastern portion. While historically temperate, the region reached record highs of 108, 112 and 116 during an unprecedented June 2021 heat event. Sixty-nine deaths, mostly elderly people in homes without air conditioning, were attributed to the three-day heat dome where temperatures registered 40 degrees higher than normal.   

Studies by the world’s leading climate scientists were unanimous in their conclusion that atmospheric pollution combined with a dense high-pressure system functionally converted the region into a “convection oven,” according to the lawsuit. The studies were also unanimous in attributing the pollution to fossil fuel emissions. The lawsuit seeks to hold the oil and gas companies responsible for decades of knowingly producing and selling climate-destroying products while deceiving the public of the dangers.  

“It’s one thing for an environmentally conscious community in Oregon to understand that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels melt polar ice caps and raise sea levels,” Simon notes. “But it’s quite another for them to anticipate that the defendants’ carbon pollution would transform the region’s historically mild climate into one of the hottest places on earth and thereby kill 69 residents in a week. We look forward to proving to a jury that the Defendants foresaw but misled the public that fossil fuel emissions could cause catastrophic heating events in mild climates and that deception left this region unprepared for this type of devastating weather anomaly.”  

Named in the suit are oil and gas producers and sellers Anadarko Petroleum, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Marathon Petroleum, Motiva, Occidental Petroleum, Peabody Energy, Shell, Space Age Fuel, Total Specialties USA and Valero Energy. Also included in the lawsuit are the industry trade groups American Petroleum Institute and Western States Petroleum Association, along with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. 

The county seeks $50 million in actual damages and $1.5 billion for future damages. It also seeks an additional $50 billion to create an abatement fund to finance efforts to “prepare the county and its citizens for a new normal” that will include periods of high heat and/or wildfire so severe that they could lead to additional deaths, destroy property, and significantly endanger critical infrastructure. 

The case is County of Multnomah v. Exxon Mobil Corp., Oregon Circuit Court No. 23CV25164. In addition to Simon Greenstone Panatier, Multnomah County is represented by Worthington & Caron, PC and Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost.  


About Simon Greenstone Panatier, PC 

With offices in Dallas, Houston, Long Beach and New York City, Simon Greenstone Panatier, PC is a nationally recognized trial firm with a reputation for exemplary and zealous representation of clients in a wide variety of litigation areas, including toxic torts, product liability, and catastrophic personal injury matters.