tort claims, transferred intent doctrine, commercial public deception, tobacco industry, corporate deception, industry misinformation, global warming, intent, reliance, civil liability


"For an intended injury the law is astute to discover even very remote causation." - Justice Thurgood Marshall ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, misled the public about climate change for at least two decades. Several states' attorneys general have opened investigations into the potential criminality of the company's conduct. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has opened its own investigation. Criminal or not, however, ExxonMobil's conduct closely resembles schemes carried out by the tobacco, asbestos, opioid, sugar, and leaded gasoline industries, among others. The scheme is always the same: there is a product that is both profitable and destructive, but its destructiveness is not readily apparent because the causal connection between the product and the harm it causes can only be bridged with scientific knowledge. Moreover, companies selling the product tell the public that the science linking the product to the harm it causes is unsettled when, in fact, the science is well-enough established to warrant regulation of the product and imposition of liability for harm caused by it. The corporate message of scientific doubt, in other words, does not square with what scientists know, making the assertion misleading, if not illegal.