If you want to mess with Texas, do it in Texas

By The Record | Oct 9, 2018

California municipalities trying to shake down Texas-based ExxonMobil with climate-change lawsuits got the tables turned on them in January when Exxon filed a petition in Tarrant County District Court here in Texas, seeking pre-suit discovery for a potential lawsuit against them. 

Those municipalities unsuccessfully challenged the trial court’s jurisdiction and are now appealing that decision in our Second Court of Appeals.

Exxon’s petition alleges that the potential defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy, trying to blame energy companies for the alleged harm done by a posited global warming that has supposedly been generated or exacerbated by the burning of fossil fuels – and for projected flooding disasters (blamed in advance on global warming) that were supposedly feared but not disclosed to possible investors in municipal bond offerings.

“ExxonMobil’s potential claims arose from the Potential Defendants’ purposeful contacts with Texas,” the petition states, “including their efforts to suppress speech and associational rights within the state and obtain documents stored within the state.”

The municipalities challenged the Texas trial court’s jurisdiction, but 96th District Court Judge R.H. Wallace Jr. rejected those challenges.

Several municipalities filed briefs questioning the state court’s exercise of “specific personal jurisdiction” over an out-of-state defendant. The municipalities claimed that Exxon failed to meet its burden of establishing personal jurisdiction under the Texas long-arm statute, which authorizes personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants.

Exxon countered that the trial court’s findings are “well supported by the law and ample evidence.” According to Exxon, “The Texas long-arm statute authorizes personal jurisdiction over nonresidents who commit a tort in whole or in part in the state.”

The company contends that the California municipalities are engaging in lawfare to pressure energy companies “to modify or silence their views on climate change.”

The state of California and many of its municipalities have serious economic problems, but blaming them on an unproven theory and holding successful companies in other states responsible are not the solution.

If they want to mess with companies in Texas anyway, they should do it in Texas courts.

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