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5 unusual natural disaster lawsuits

As we start to see litigation around Hurricane Sandy, we take a look back at bizarre lawsuits of disasters past


The disaster wrought by Hurricane Sandy has left many communities devastated, and, as with any event of this scale, lawsuits came nipping at its heels. New Jersey is suing seven gas stations and a hotel, accusing them of gouging prices by as much as 59 percent during the aftermath of the storm. A resident of Tarrytown, N.Y. filed a case against power company Con Edison for not restoring power sooner after Sandy.

Bracelet Bungle

After the undersea earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, pop singer Lady Gaga designed charity bracelets to benefit the victims of the disaster, and sold them to her fans.

Deity Defendant

It’s not uncommon for people to lash out at God after a natural disaster, but Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers took his beef to court. His lawsuit against the higher power reads: “defendant directly and proximately has caused, inter alia, fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornados, pestilential plagues..." Chambers reasoned that he was able to sue God because “[the] defendant, being omnipresent, is personally present in Douglas County."

Snowstorm Suit

Apparently lawsuits involving the Supreme Being are more common than you’d think. This next case, though, didn’t name God as a defendant; instead, the 1962 suit centered on the definition of an “act of God.”

From Prediction to Prison

It would seem that humans can be held guilty for acts of nature after all. On Oct. 22, six Italian seismologists and one government official were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in prison for failing to alert the residents of L’Aquila, Italy before an earthquake hit the town and killed more than 300 people.

Climate Case

Climate change is a contentious issue, so it’s no surprise that it eventually ended up in the courts in Comer v. Murphy Oil. The plaintiff in the case argued that greenhouse gas emissions from oil companies and other energy producers had contributed to global warming and increased the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. Although a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit allowed the case to proceed, an en banc panel vacated that decision by accepting the appeal, only to dissolve when multiple recusals resulted in a loss of the panel's quorum.

Alanna Byrne

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