Insurer mysteriously withdraws high-profile lawsuit for climate damages in Chicago flooding case
Farmers Insurance Co. has withdrawn its lawsuit against Chicago for climate-related flooding, marking an abrupt end to a novel legal claim that had tantalized observers with its prospects for pushing cities to act against climate change.
The company filed for dismissal Tuesday after its case against dozens of municipalities in the Chicago area gained national media attention and no short amount of criticism from local officials, who warned that taxpayers would shoulder the cost of the class-action suit.
A spokesman for Farmers said in a statement that the company reversed course after the lawsuit successfully caught the attention of municipalities, which the company had accused of mismanaging their stormwater systems. The lawsuit claimed that 600 homes were damaged during a downpour in April 2013 after local officials allegedly failed to drain underground storm tunnels and deploy protective barriers. It also said the officials failed to account for heavier rainfall from global warming.
Hmmm, they filed a lawsuit to elevate awareness? I’m not buying it.
Chances are some corporate weasel halfwit came to his/her senses and realized three things:
1) They can’t absolutely link severe weather events leading to flooding and climate change, so their lawsuit was unwinnable. See the data below.
Floods have not increased in the US in frequency or intensity since at least 1950.
Percent of US streamguages above “bankfull streamflow” defined as the highest daily mean streamflow value expected to occur, on average, once in every 2.3 years. Source: USGS
Flood losses as a percentage of US GDP have dropped by about 75% since 1940.
Annual flood losses have decreased from about 0.2% of US GDP to <0.05% since 1940. Flood loss data from NOAA Hydrologic Information Center.
h/t to Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. for those graphs.
2) The bad press they were getting probably was projected to cost more than they could recover.
3) The reason insurance is purchased at all is to CYA in unforseen circumstances, including “acts of God”. For Farmers Insurance Group to put the onus of being prepared for all such contingencies is counter-intuitive for the need to purchase insurance at all.
The lesson from Farmers was “Why buy insurance from us at all? If you do and you don’t meet our retroactively applied arbitrary and unscientific risk standards, we’ll just sue you to get the money back”.