Cases of Note

Cases of Note 2

June 5, 2019

Baltimore Sues Trump Administration to Block Denial of Care Rule for Public Health Programs

Baltimore filed a federal lawsuit late on June 5, 2019, challenging a new federal regulation, the “denial of care” rule, which would allow virtually any employee of a publicly-funded health service to deny care based on the employee’s religious, moral, or other beliefs. Under the rule, employers risk losing all of their federal health funding, including Medicare and Medicaid dollars, if they take steps to avoid damaging refusals of service to our most vulnerable patient populations. 

According to Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, “The Rule is simply dangerous for the residents of Baltimore City.  If enacted, the rule will allow providers to deny lifesaving services based on personal beliefs and it can only serve to further marginalize at-risk populations."

In its lawsuit, Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar, the City argues that the rule goes far beyond the scope of the laws it purports to implement and should be struck down. The City further argues that the rule violates the Constitution and several federal laws, including a provision of the Affordable Care Act that prohibits undue burdens on patients’ ability to receive appropriate health care. Solicitor Andre M. Davis stated,  "We will do all we can to prevent the administration from endangering the public health of our residents with this illegal rule."

The rule, which is set to go into effect on July 22, 2019, would have devastating effects on Baltimore City, which relies on tens of millions in federal funding annually to address serious public health challenges, including high rates of substance abuse, HIV infection, and other communicable diseases. The Baltimore City Health Department has made great strides in reaching vulnerable people and improving public health, through its patient-centered philosophy which prioritizes trust-building and outreach to high-risk groups.  Discriminatory denials of care will stigmatize vulnerable patients and drive them away from the care they need. 

The City Law Department enjoys the able assistance of co-counsel Elisha Barron, Daniel Shih, Ryan Kirkpatrick, Seth Ard, and Arun Subramanian of Susman Godfrey, LLC, as well as Richard Katskee, Ken Upton, Sarah Goetz, and Claire Hillen, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The complaint is available here  [link].

April 16, 2019

Baltimore City Files Suit to Prevent Drastic Title X Regulation from Cutting Access to Reproductive Health Care for Low-Income People

Yesterday, the City of Baltimore filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to prevent a federal regulation from taking effect in early May which would severely restrict access to reproductive health care for low-income people. Title X clinics in the City serve over 16,000 patients each year with vital family planning, cancer screening, and other preventive health services. By imposing costly and unnecessary infrastructure requirements on Title X clinics, and by requiring clinic medical staff to violate their professional ethics and direct pregnant patients away from abortion and toward prenatal care, many Title X grantees will be forced to forego the funding and close their doors. The City would lose its $1.4 million Title X funding for reproductive health services at the same time that other providers close and patients lose access to services.

The City’s financial injury will be compounded by increasing health care costs as a result of an increase in unintended pregnancies, cancers not detected in early stages, the otherwise avoidable spread of sexually transmitted infections (“STIs”), delayed prenatal care, and patient diversion as other Title X providers opt out of the program and shut down.

“The Baltimore City Health Department is charged with the mission of protecting health, eliminating disparities, and ensuring the wellbeing of every Baltimorean through education, advocacy, and direct service delivery,” said Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore City Health Commissioner. “With the support of Title X funds, our team works daily towards this mission, through their care of some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable residents. Our service delivery team provides women with cancer screenings, reproductive health services, and education. An end to Title X funding would have a devastating impact on the residents served. As a Health Department, we cannot stand idly by as funding is being pulled. We will continue to pursue justice in this case on behalf of the residents of Baltimore City.”

“When the health of our residents is endangered by unlawful and costly federal regulations, adopted in the denigration of those residents’ statutory and constitutional rights, the Law Department will not hesitate to file suit to prevent such regulations from taking effect,” stated Solicitor Andre M. Davis. “This Health and Human Services regulation for Title X clinics is contrary to its enabling statute which for decades has increased access to reproductive health services. It is also unlawful because it violates the Constitution and several other federal laws,” Davis said. “We look forward to our day in court.”

In its lawsuit filed last Friday, Baltimore alleges that the Rule violates several federal statutes—including provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Title X itself, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act—and is an unconstitutional infringement of the rights to free speech, sex equality, and to access abortion. The suit by Baltimore is the latest of several suits challenging the rules brought by Title X providers, including Planned Parenthood, and a number of states including Maryland.

The City Law Department has enjoyed the able assistance of its pro bono co-counsel Arnold & Porter’s Andrew Tutt and Drew Harker; Professor Priscilla Smith, Faren Tang, and the students of the Yale Law School Reproductive Justice Clinic; as well as Stephanie Toti of the Lawyering Project.

To read more about the Baltimore City Files Suit to Prevent Drastic Title X Regulation from Cutting Access to Reproductive Health Care for Low-Income People.

April 2, 2019

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Bank of America, No. 19-cv-2900 (S.D.N.Y.)

Baltimore filed a class-action antitrust suit seeking to recover damages for the Defendants’ price-fixing conspiracy in the sale and purchase of debt issued by the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”). These financial instruments are collectively referred to as “FFBs,” short for Fannie and Freddie bonds.  These bonds are favored by municipalities because they are generally considered safe investments that provide a high degree of liquidity. Recent news reports reveal that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into price manipulation by bank traders in the secondary FFB market. 

Based on this report, the City of Baltimore conducted an economic analysis of available price data and market information.  The results indicate that Defendants have engaged in a price-fixing conspiracy in the market for FFBs which inflated the prices of FFBs purchased by investors, both at issuance and in the secondary market, and deflated the prices of FFBs sold by investors in the secondary market.  Alerted to this conspiracy, Baltimore filed suit on its own behalf and on behalf of the class of entities harmed by the conspiracy. During the conspiracy period (2009-2014), the City of Baltimore paid almost $1 billion for 108 FFBs.

Defendants include Bank of America, Barclays, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, First Tennessee Bank, Goldman Sachs, Jefferies Group LLC, JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., UBS, and other unnamed co-conspirators. Defendants are horizontal competitors and the dominant dealers in FFBs, meaning that they controlled the FFBs supply ultimately available to investors, like Baltimore, in both the primary market (or, issuance) and in the secondary market. The secondary market for FFBs is a vast “over-the-counter” (“OTC”) market, which facilitated the Defendants’ price-fixing conspiracy. In other words, the FFBs are traded through a network of broker-dealers, rather than on a centralized, formal exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange where a multitude of banks and investors, and other agents are able to see public information updated in real-time as they trade.  This OTC market is therefore a dark market that enabled a few select, knowledgeable, and privileged dealers with exclusive access to price information to collude and harm investors, without risking that these investors would disc their conspiracy.

Solicitor Andre M. Davis stated, “The Law Department continues to vigilantly safeguard City taxpayer interests.  We pursue recoveries when we learn that large banks have colluded to increase prices on complex financial instruments, overcharging the City by millions of dollars.”  The City is represented by outside counsel, Bill Carmody, Arun Subramanian, Seth Ard, and Stephanie Spies of Susman & Godfrey.

To read more about the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Bank of America, No. 19-cv-2900 (S.D.N.Y.).

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Bank of America, et al.,  (S.D.N.Y)

March 25, 2019

Baltimore seeks to be a class representative in its suit filed today in the Southern District of New York, challenging anti-trust violations by Bank of America, Barclays, BMO, Citi, Fifth Third, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, RBC, and Wells Fargo.   This suit concerns the Defendants’ conspiracy to fix the interest rates of variable rate demand obligations (“VRDOs”) issued by the City and a class of similarly situated individuals and entities in violation of federal antitrust law and in breach of the Defendants’ contractual commitments.  The City Solicitor’s Office is partnering with outside counsel Bill Carmody and Seth Ard of Susman Godfrey.

VRDOs are tax-exempt municipal securities for which the interest rate resets on a periodic basis, most commonly weekly. VRDOS are typically issued by state and local governments as a means of raising revenue. VRDOs are primarily held by tax-exempt money market funds (“MMFs”), many of which are owned and managed by Defendants.

VRDOs are supposed to provide special benefits to Baltimore by behaving like long-term securities because they allow the issuer to borrow money for long periods of time—but while paying short-term interest rates. However, because the banks colluded to keep interest rates high,  Baltimore and similarly situated VRDO issuers suffered to the tune of billions of dollars in overcharges during the Class Period by paying inflated, collusively set interest rates on VRDOs, substantial remarketing fees for remarketing services Defendants did not actually deliver, and liquidity provision fees for services Defendants similarly avoided the need to provide. Furthermore, because VRDOs provide revenue to municipal entities, the Defendants’ scheme inevitably reduced the funds available for public works, services, and organizations.

VRDO issuers like Baltimore naturally have an interest in paying the lowest rates possible. Accordingly, in a competitive market, Defendants would have competed with one another to set the lowest possible interest rates in an effort to attract VRDO issuers such as Baltimore to utilize their remarketing services. That is not what actually happened. Rather, Defendants conspired to restrain competition to their collective benefit, to the detriment of Baltimore and members of the Class, and in blatant violation of the federal antitrust laws. Baltimore, therefore, brings this suit to seek redress on its own and the Class’s behalf.

To read more the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Bank of America, et al.,  (S.D.N.Y). 

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. AbbVie Inc., et al, No 1:19-cv-02015 (N.D. Ill.)

March 22, 2019

The Baltimore City Solicitor filed an anti-trust suit today against pharmaceutical company AbbVie to recover millions of dollars in damages.  AbbVie manipulated patents and delayed the entry of generics to the market in order to maintain profits for its blockbuster biologic drug Humira which reported global sales of more than $38 billion dollars during the last two calendar years.  Humira is used to reduce the signs and symptoms of severe rheumatoid arthritis, severe ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, chronic plaque psoriasis, severe Crohn’s disease (adult and pediatric), ulcerative colitis, and other diseases.  Solicitor Andre M. Davis stated, “When big pharma violates the law and engages in schemes to overcharge Baltimore, we will pursue legal recourse to recover millions of taxpayer dollars.  Our resources are needed for essential services for our people and to keep taxes down.  Taxpayer dollars should not go to unjustly enrich large corporations.”

When generic biologics enter the market, as for other drugs, purchasers enjoy significant cost savings with a corresponding drop in revenue for the biologic manufacturer.  The City’s suit alleges that in order to stave off the threat of biosimilar competition, AbbVie engaged in an anticompetitive scheme, including (1) creating a patent thicket—i.e., maintaining and asserting hundreds of weak, overlapping, and/or potentially invalid patents—and (2) entering into an agreement with at least one potential generic competitor, Amgen, to delay market entry.  Because Baltimore provides prescription coverage to its 5,000 employees and approximately 25,000 retirees, and because Baltimore self-insures, the City is directly damaged by schemes to keep drug prices artificially high.  The City Solicitor’s Office has teamed up with co-counsel Sharon Robertson of Cohen Milstein, to file this class action suit in the Northern District of Illinois.

To read more the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. AbbVie Inc., et al, No 1:19-cv-02015 (N.D. Ill.).

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America, et al.

March 22, 2019

A coalition of States Led by Attorneys General Becerra and Racine, Cities, and Counties, Maryland Immigrant Advocates, and Civil Rights Organizations File Briefs in Support of a Lawsuit Challenging Trump State Department's Illegal, Anti-Immigrant “Public Charge” Policy

In Four “Friend of the Court” Briefs Filed Friday, Supporters Detail Harms Caused by Trump Administration's Unlawful Change to Immigration Policy

Supporters Provide Court with Real-Life Stories of Immigrants Harmed By the Trump Administration’s Discriminatory Policy

Washington D.C.—  A coalition of 19 states, 17 cities and counties, 10 civil rights organizations, and five Maryland immigrant advocates filed four “friend of the court” briefs in support of a lawsuit filed by the City of Baltimore and co-counsel Democracy Forward challenging the Trump administration's illegal change to a longstanding State Department immigration policy. The briefs lay out the many different harms caused by this unlawful and discriminatory change to the definition of public charge, which range from rising costs for states and local governments to families refusing to seek medical or food assistance for which they are eligible out of fear that they, or a loved one, would be denied a visa under the new policy. These briefs make plain the sweeping effects of the FAM change and the human toll it exacts. Indeed, for the first time in seven years, one organization recounts seeing a client voluntarily turn down all benefits, in whatever form, for which they are eligible.

Excerpts from the briefs include the following:

  • In the brief led by Attorneys General for California and the District of Columbia, 19 States—home to more than 26 million immigrants from around the world, many of whom are long-term residents with U.S. citizen relatives—outlined how the FAM change disrupts “States’ benefits administration, undermines public health, and will have negative consequences to our residents and our states’ economies.” The States described how the FAM change “places severe obstacles in front of families who seek to reunify, thus, harming our residents’ ability to be self-sufficient,” and detailed the many programs affected including school meals, child care assistance programs, and assistance for pregnant women, highlighting the numbers of cancellations of health care appointments.

  • Similarly, the brief submitted by 17 cities and counties described how the Trump administration’s policy change will harm local economies. The cities and counties, which span the country and represent 12 million people, explained that the “change to the criteria for a public charge determination in the FAM will undermine localities’ economic growth and shrink their budgets. In general, immigration has a positive impact on economic growth, benefiting non-immigrant U.S. citizens as well as the economy as a whole.” More broadly, the brief emphasizes that the FAM change, and the Administration’s underlying hostility toward immigrants, “betrays this country’s ideals and impedes local governments’ abilities to foster welcoming and thriving communities for all of their residents.”

  • The brief filed by a coalition of 10 civil rights organizations, represented by law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, traces the history of the “public charge” test from its origins as a racially exclusionary "weapon for prejudice," connecting that dark past to the racial animus that underpins the Trump Administration’s policy change. In particular, the brief points to the “frequent, overt remarks by President Trump disparaging immigrants from certain countries and backgrounds,” as well as “the clearly foreseeable disproportionate impact the new rule will have on immigrant communities of color.” As the organizations conclude: the “Trump administration does not desire to uplift immigrant families," and has instead implemented policies that "will drastically and disparately impact racial minorities for years to come.”

  • A brief filed by the Public Justice Center, the Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, CASA de Maryland, Catholic Charities of Baltimore, and the Episcopal Refugee and Immigrant Center Alliance lays out the agonizing choice of a woman—a single mother with a preteen U.S. citizen child—who has "begun refusing all forms of benefits for her and her son … even though she is unemployed and having trouble finding employment.” This story marks the only instance, in the past seven years, in which that organization can recall a client voluntarily turning down all benefits for which they are eligible. The brief also describes the story of a mother of two American-born children who, because of "the public charge policy change, combined with the current climate-related to immigration policy" is afraid to return to her home country to process her immigrant visa "even though such voluntary act of departure is the lawful thing to do to legalize her immigration status."

      The amicus briefs were filed on Friday, March 22, 2019, by:

  • The Amici States and the District of Columbia: the State of California, the District of Columbia, and the States of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. To read the amicus brief filed in support of our opposition to Trump’s motion to dismiss our case.

  • Amici Cities and Counties: The City of Oakland, The County of Montgomery, Maryland, The County of Alameda, California, The City of Austin, Texas, The City of Boise, Idaho, The City of Los Angeles, California, The County of Marin, California,  The City of Mountain View, California,  California, The City of Palm Springs, California, The City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The City of Sacramento, California, The City of Saint Paul, Minnesota, The County of Santa Cruz, California, The City of Seattle, Washington, The City of Stockton, California, The City of Tucson, Arizona, and The City of West Hollywood, California.  To read the amicus brief filed in support of our opposition to Trump’s motion to dismiss our case.

  • Amici Civil Rights Organizations: Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Muslim Advocates, Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, Inc., Americans for Immigrant Justice, MacArthur Justice Center, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, American Immigration Council, National Immigrant Justice Center, and Southern Poverty Law Center. To read the amicus brief filed in support of our opposition to Trump’s motion to dismiss our case. 

  • Amici Maryland Immigrant Advocates: Public Justice Center, Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, Casa de Maryland, Catholic Charities of Baltimore, Immigration Legal Services, and Episcopal Refugee and Immigrant Center Alliance. To read the amicus brief filed in support of our opposition to Trump’s motion to dismiss our case.

    In January 2018, the Department of State sought to limit legal immigration to the United States by revising its Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) to expand the definition of who may be considered likely to become a “public charge,” a move that makes it easier to deem applicants ineligible for a visa. Newly released data shows that immigrant visa denials skyrocketed by over 300 percent after the change was implemented.

    On November 28, 2018, the City of Baltimore filed suit against the Trump administration to challenge the State Department’s changed definition of public charge. The Baltimore City Solicitor has co-counseled with nonprofit Democracy Forward to bring this suit. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The City of Baltimore is asking the Court to declare the FAM change arbitrary and capricious, procedurally invalid, and unconstitutional, vacate the changes to the FAM, and enjoin the government from adjudicating visas using the tougher standards.

Pimlico Complaint

March 20, 2019

Plaintiffs, The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore ("the City"), George Mitchell, Jimmy Mitchell, and Pamela Curtis, by their attorneys, Andre M. Davis, Baltimore City Solicitor, Suzanne Sangree, and Aaron DeGraffenreidt, filed this Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief and Petition for Condemnation seeking, among other relief, a declaration from the Court that Defendants, The Stronach Group, the Maryland Jockey Club, Inc., The Maryland Jockey Club of Baltimore City, Inc., and Pimlico Racing Association, Inc. cannot relocate the Preakness Stakes from its current venue at Pimlico Race Course, because there is no incipient or imminent disaster or emergency and the law prohibits the relocation of the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico to another venue absent a disaster or emergency.  Md. Code, Bus. Reg. § 11-520(b),  In addition, the City seeks to exercise its powers of eminent domain to take ownership of both the Pimlico Race Course and the Preakness Stakes in order to continue the 149-year tradition of running the race in Baltimore City, with the economic development and jobs that race brings.

 To read more about the Pimlico Complaint. 

City of Baltimore Files First East Coast PCB Lawsuit Against Monsanto Company

February 19, 2019

Today, the City of Baltimore took an important step towards reducing PCBs from the environment and waterways in Baltimore and Maryland. City Solicitor Andre M. Davis filed suit against Monsanto Company, Solutia, Inc., and Pharmacia LLC for monetary damages associated with PCB chemicals in the City’s stormwater and certain water bodies. The case number is 1:19-cv-00483-RDB.

The lawsuit marks the first of its kind on the east coast, and is the 15th of its kind nationally, a list that includes the cities of San Diego, Portland, and Seattle, and states that include Washington, Oregon, and Ohio. Baltimore’s suit alleges that at the time of manufacture and promotion, Monsanto knew that its PCB chemicals are toxic, cannot be contained to their original applications, and do not degrade in nature. The lawsuit further alleges that PCB chemicals pose significant public health concerns because PCBs bioaccumulate in fish, aquatic animals, and humans.

“Baltimore takes seriously the public and environmental health of the entire community. Our city’s rich history and culture include healthy waterways,” said City Solicitor Andre M. Davis. “This lawsuit sends a strong message that the City will hold corporations accountable for cleaning up the toxic messes they make in our City. The taxpayers are not responsible for Monsanto’s bad acts.”

While the lawsuit does not demand a specific amount of money, City Solicitor Andre Davis confirmed he believes Monsanto has caused “at least tens of millions of dollars” in legal damages.

The City of Baltimore is represented by City Solicitor Andre Davis and Director of Affirmative Litigation Suzanne Sangree. The City is also represented by Scott Summy and John Fiske of Baron & Budd; Jay Eisenhofer and Kyle McGee of Grant & Eisenhofer; and Richard Gordon and Martin Wolf of Gordon, Wolf, and Carney.

To view the City of Baltimore Files First East Coast PCB Lawsuit Against Monsanto Company complaint

For additional inquiries, please contact Suzanne Sangree at 443-388-2190 or email John Fiske or you can reach him at 619-261-4090.

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America, et al.

November 28, 2018

This suit against the Trump Administration challenges the unlawful and secret change to the State Department’s definition of “public charge,” a provision in immigration law that limits who may come to the United States. The change was motivated by the Trump Administration's well-known hostility towards certain immigrant groups -- most notably Hispanic, Asian, and African communities -- and is a violation of the federal laws governing administrative agencies, including the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection. The Baltimore City Solicitor has teamed with nonprofit Democracy Forward to bring this suit.

As part of the Trump Administration's ongoing efforts to expand the definition of “public charge,” and thereby further restrict the admission of otherwise eligible individuals to enter the U.S., the State Department amended the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) in January 2018 to allow consular officers to consider whether visa applicants or their family members, including their U.S. citizen family members, have received non-cash benefits. Non-cash benefits include essential programs like free school lunches, public health vaccinations, and Head Start. The State Department provided no prior notice of this change, nor any explanation for why it decided to deviate from the decades-old definition of public charge which explicitly prohibited consular officers from considering the use of such non-cash benefits.

“Baltimore is a welcoming city, known for embracing immigrants and also benefiting from their many contributions,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “This effort by the Trump Administration to create additional obstacles to those seeking to live in Baltimore is an affront to the ideals and principles on which this nation was founded. We are determined to resist this latest attempt to deprive our immigrant communities of basic services and are confident we will prevail.”

Baltimore and its residents have already begun to feel the impact. To offer just one example, enrollment in the city’s Head Start program has virtually ceased among the city’s African immigrant population since the start of the 2018 school year.

Democracy Forward’s Executive Director Anne Harkavy stated, “The State Department’s unlawful public charge policy is yet another example of the Trump Administration’s disturbing hostility toward people born in other countries and their families, especially immigrants from places President Trump has derided.”  

“The State Department’s choice to make this change behind closed doors to avoid hearing from the public is illegal, but it’s not surprising,” said Solicitor Andre M. Davis. “Like the Trump Administration’s family separation policy, the State Department’s change to ‘public charge’ policy hurts kids and families.” 

At the same time, the Trump Administration has also been determined to change the rules regarding public charge more broadly, as evidenced by a leaked draft executive order and the Department of Homeland Security’s recent proposed rule, which is currently open for public comment. Even the Trump Administration itself has acknowledged that families and cities will be hurt by these changes--facing higher rates of communicable diseases, malnourished infants, and poverty and homelessness. Despite the significance of these policy changes, the Trump Administration nonetheless decided to implement the State Department policy without any serious consideration of its effects.

To view the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America, et al. complaint. 

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Transdev North America, Inc., et al.

September 12, 2018

Baltimore City has filed suit against Transdev North America, Inc., and Transdev Services, Inc. (“Transdev”) for breach of contract.  The lawsuit alleges that Transdev overcharged the City more than 20 million dollars for the operation of the Charm City Circulator, the free shuttle service available to City residents, downtown employees, students, tourists, and anyone who wants to ride. This lawsuit reflects the Mayor’s priority to increase transparency and accountability in government dealings. 

To read more about the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Transdev North America, Inc., et al. complaint.

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. BP P.L.C., et al. 

BALTIMORE, MD.  —  The East Coast’s 5th largest city today joined a growing number of communities that are trying to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for knowingly contributing to what one of the industry’s own experts described as the “potentially catastrophic” consequences of climate change. The lawsuit was filed in the state Circuit Court in Baltimore City.

The City, with 60 miles of waterfront and one of the most important ports on the East Coast, faces growing costs to protect its residents, businesses, and infrastructure from rising seas and other climate change-related damages.

“These oil and gas companies knew for decades that their products would harm communities like ours, and we’re going to hold them accountable,” Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis said. “Baltimore’s residents, workers, and businesses shouldn’t have to pay for the damage knowingly caused by these companies.”

Solicitor Davis, who took the reins of the city’s law office in September 2017, spent more than three decades as a judge in Baltimore’s Circuit Court, the U.S. District Court, and the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. He also served as a federal prosecutor and as a housing manager for the city.

Baltimore’s lawsuit is the 13th to be filed taking on some of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world. The complaint, filed today on behalf of the City of Baltimore, seeks to hold accountable 26 oil and gas companies for damages associated with sea-level rise and changes to the hydrologic cycle that include more frequent and severe heat waves, drought, and extreme precipitation events, all of which are caused by the companies’ products.

“Baltimore is a real American melting pot - an economically and culturally diverse coastal city with a proud heritage and promising future,” noted Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “But we’re now on the front lines of climate change because melting ice caps, more frequent heat waves, extreme storms, and other climate consequences caused by fossil fuel companies are threatening our city and imposing real costs on our taxpayers. I fully support the Solicitor’s effort to protect Baltimore, our economy, and our people by holding these companies accountable,” Mayor Pugh added.

According to the complaint:

Baltimore is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise because of its substantial and densely developed coastline and substantial low-lying areas. The port and waterfront are extremely important assets to the City, providing an abundance of jobs as well as some of the City’s strongest property tax base. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a prominent tourist destination attracting more than 20 million visitors each year. Sea level rise will present short- and long-term challenges to the Inner Harbor, along with other waterfront communities. 

Just two years ago, the Baltimore region was hit with a 1,000-year storm that brought torrential rains and flash floods. Two months ago, the area was hit by another 1,000-year storm. Recent reports from the American Meteorological Society and others confirm that those kinds of serious climate-related changes result from the warming of the planet caused by increases in greenhouse gases from fossil fuels.

Moreover, the latest science shows a clear connection between the oil and gas produced by fossil fuel companies and rising temperatures and sea levels, along with more frequent and severe heat waves, droughts, and extreme precipitation events.
“For 50 years, these companies have known their products would cause rising seas and the other climate change-related problems facing Baltimore today,” said Solicitor Davis. “They could have warned us. They could have taken steps to minimize or avoid the damage. In fact, they had a responsibility to do both, but they didn’t, and that’s why we are taking them to court.”

According to the complaint:

Defendants have known for nearly 50 years that greenhouse gas pollution from their fossil fuel products has a significant impact on the Earth’s climate and sea levels. Defendants’ awareness of the negative implications of their actions corresponds almost exactly with the Great Acceleration, and with skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions. With that knowledge, Defendants took steps to protect their own assets from these threats through immense internal investment in research, infrastructure improvements, and plans to exploit new opportunities in a warming world.

Instead of working to reduce the use and combustion of fossil fuel products, lower the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, minimize the damage associated with continued high use and combustion of such products, and ease the transition to a lower-carbon economy, Defendants concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever greater volumes.
“For the past three decades, the fossil fuel industry has spent billions of dollars to deceive, delay, distract, and attack those who try to hold them accountable for their role in causing climate change,” said Mayor Pugh. “We expect more of the same from them here, but we will not be deterred from our responsibility to protect Baltimore and those of us who call it home.” 

The City of Baltimore is represented by its Solicitor and assisted by outside counsel from Sher Edling LLP. 

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al. 

The City of Baltimore, acting through the City Law Department and the nationally prominent firm of Sussman Godfrey LLP, filed a comprehensive 105-page lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors, and others who are alleged to be responsible for numerous injuries and damages to the City caused by fraudulent and reckless marketing of opioids.

To read more about the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al.