News & Insights

Federal Court Remands Unfair Trade Practices Lawsuit Against Exxon

The United States District Court for the District of Connecticut has granted the state’s remand motion in its case against Exxon Mobil for allegedly misleading the public about connections between its products and climate change, as well as alleged interference with the marketplace for renewable energy and “greenwashing.”  Connecticut v. Exxon Mobil Corp., No. 3:20-cv-1555 (June 9, 2021).

The Court found Exxon failed to establish that the case must be heard in federal court, even though it raises questions of interstate and international pollution that the company argued are exclusively governed by federal common law.  In reaching its decision, the Court first said Exxon failed to demonstrate that federal common law justified removal, even if it might provide a defense.  Second, the Court concluded Connecticut’s claims of deceptive and unfair practice do not necessarily raise federal issues as would be required for the application of the Grable exception to the well-pleaded complaint rule.   Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308 (2005).

Finally, the Court considered Exxon’s argument the case is federal in nature because the company produced oil at the direction of the federal government.  Rejecting this argument, the Court found Exxon was not acting under federal guidance when it published advertisements refuting links between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change over which Connecticut has sued.

This case is one of approximately two dozen filed by local governments and states accusing major oil and gas companies of contributing to the effects of climate change by selling fossil fuels.  The companies typically remove the cases to federal court, which have overwhelmingly remanded them.  These cases demonstrate Plaintiffs can, under the well-pleaded complaint rule, avoid federal jurisdiction for “strategic” reasons by making claims that solely rely on state law.