- New Litagion agent profiles for carbon dioxide emissions, methane emissions, and industrial meat
- Updated cross-line clash liability disaster scenarios for opioids, sugar, and building contamination
- Climate change cases added to litigation tracking
- New blog content: "Climate change: Coming to a court near you"
- Updated Litagion agent and company profiles impacted by newly published peer-reviewed science and newly gathered company information
- Carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide accounts for approximately 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Scientists believe that eliminating the further accumulation of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide that trap heat in the atmosphere is essential to avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change. At this time, this profile is limited to an enumeration of the industrial activities responsible for carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Humans add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere directly by burning fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) and indirectly by undermining the ability of natural sinks like forests and soils to remove and store carbon dioxide. Transportation and electricity generation account for two-thirds of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Another 24 percent of emissions is accounted for by other industrial activities that produce carbon dioxide through the combustion of fossil fuels and other chemical reactions.
- Methane emissions. Methane accounts for approximately 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Scientists believe that eliminating the further accumulation of greenhouse gasses like methane that trap heat in the atmosphere is essential to avoiding the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Although methane persists in the atmosphere for a shorter period than carbon dioxide, it is 25 times more efficient at trapping heat. At this time, this profile is limited to an enumeration of the industrial activities responsible for methane emissions in the United States. Enteric fermentation and manure management in the agricultural sector account for about 36 percent of all methane emissions. The production, transmission, and distribution of natural gas and oil accounts for another 30 percent of methane emissions, followed by landfills (17 percent) and coal mines (7 percent).
- Indusrial meat. Industrial meat refers to the large-scale industrial production of meat principally for human consumption. Industrial meat operations confine large numbers of animals (cows, poultry, pigs, lamb, fish) in cages, barns, or feedlots where they receive food, water, and medicine. Animals are then slaughtered and their meat packed in industrial facilities to be distributed around the globe. This profile considers a range of human health and environmental consequences of industrial meat production including the effect of meat consumption on chronic disease, water contamination resulting from improper animal waste management, and the contribution of industrial meat to global climate change. The consequences of the use of antibiotics to manage disease in industrial meat operations is considered in the separate profile entitled "antibiotics overprescription."
Liability disaster scenarios
- Opioid marketing practices. Sharply increasing prescription volumes in the early 2000s in the United States precipitated an epidemic of opioid abuse, dependence, and deadly overdose. The human toll of the opioid epidemic is staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 500,000 people died of an opioid overdose between 1999 and 2019.
Cities, states, counties, tribes, and other fourth-party plaintiffs began filing lawsuits in 2014 seeking to hold pharmaceutical companies, distributors, pharmacies, and other parties liable for the costs of the opioid epidemic. More than 3,000 such cases are consolidated in federal multidistrict litigation in the Northern District of Ohio and hundreds of additional cases remain in state courts. Plaintiffs claim various causes of action in their lawsuits including deceptive marketing, failure to monitor and report suspicious prescriptions, and public nuisance. This scenario, first published in early 2019 and updated here, explores a range of potential outcomes for this unfolding litigation event. A version of this scenario is now also available for the purposes of reporting on the Lloyd's liability scenario "Pharmaceutical Product US."
- Sugar. There is broad scientific consensus that overconsumption of sugar is one of the main drivers of obesity in the United States. On average, Americans consume nearly 100 pounds of sugar each year and many individuals consume much more. Obese individuals are far more likely to suffer a range of adverse health outcomes like type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Skyrocketing rates of childhood and adult obesity impose enormous costs on society. By some estimates, obesity, and the disease conditions like type 2 diabetes that it precipitates, accounts for more than $90 billion in excess medical spending each year. This scenario contemplates the possibility of third- and fourth-party litigation seeking to recover damages incurred by individuals and governments attributable to the overconsumption of sugar. A version of this scenario is now also available for the purposes of reporting on the Lloyd's liability scenario "Chemicals in Food US."
- Building contamination. Building materials are produced using a wide variety of chemical substances to which building occupants may be exposed. Among those chemical substances are phthalates, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and diisocyanates, each of which are the subject of extensive research investigating their potential to harm human health. In these building contamination scenarios, residential and commercial building owners file suit against chemical and product manufacturers, distributors and retailers, and construction companies claiming that the presence of these materials elevates the risk that occupants will suffer type 2 diabetes, asthma, and reproductive injury and demanding compensation for the costs of removing these materials and replacing them with safer alternatives. A version of this scenario is now also available for the purposes of reporting on the Lloyd's liability scenario "Construction Product Global."
- Carbon dioxide and methane emissions. CoMeta's litigation tracker now records lawsuits filed in U.S. courts against oil and gas producers, coal mines, automobile manufacturers, and other companies for emissions of carbon dioxide and methane that are contributing to global climate change. States, counties, cities, and non-governmental organizations have filed 27 such complaints to-date, most recently in April 2021.