The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said that ExxonMobil’s anti-SLAPP defense is inadequate.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled against ExxonMobil, saying the oil company must face a lawsuit filed by the state’s attorney general.
ExxonMobil had sought to have the lawsuit dismissed under a state law protecting civil defendants from lawsuits intended to silence their freedom to speech.
This type of law—referred to as an anti-SLAPP statute—is typically intended to protect journalists and media organizations from reporting wrongdoing.
Writing on behalf of a unanimous 7-0 court, Justice Scott Kafker said the provision of the statute cited by ExxonMobil only applies to private lawsuits—not attempted government enforcement actions.
As LegalReader.com reported last year, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has accused ExxonMobil of misleading the public about the role fossil fuels play in climate change.
Healey claims that ExxonMobil as adopted tactics “reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s long denial campaign about the dangerous effects of smoking,” despite having had early access to climate change data.
For years, ExxonMobil maintained that its products were—at the very least—not overtly harmful.
Healey says that the company’s public relations have effectively misled its own investors as well as the general public.
Nevertheless, ExxonMobil had earlier issued a statement saying that its public remarks on climate change “are and have always been truthful” and that it has “long acknowledged the reality and risks of climate and change,” devoting “significant resources to addressing those risks.”
But in here complaint, Healey asserts that Exxon engaged in a “sophisticated, multi-million dollar campaign” to sow doubt about climate change science, all while “greenwashing” its own activities to seem more environmentally conscious.
“Rather than honestly disclose and mitigate climate change risks, ExxonMobil’s misrepresentations about and failures to disclose those risks have delayed the needed transition to clean energy around the world and make these existential climate-driven threats to the global economy more likely to occur,” the lawsuit states.
Healey has praised the Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling as a “resounding victory” in Massachusetts’ efforts to hold ExxonMobil accountable for its role in global warming.
“Exxon’s repeated attempts to stonewall our lawsuit have been baseless, and this effort was no different. We look forward to proceeding with our case and having our day in court to show how Exxon is breaking the law and to put an end to the deception once and for all,” Healey said in a statement.
WBUR notes that the ruling constitutes the latest “twist” in the battle between Massachusetts and ExxonMobil, with ExxonMobil earlier launching and losing its own lawsuit against the state.